venerdì, aprile 03, 2009

The name game

Troubled Macedonia

From The Economist print edition

THE winner of the second round of Macedonia’s presidential election on April 5th will almost certainly be Georgi Ivanov, the candidate of the ruling nationalist party led by the prime minister, Nikola Gruevski. But that does not mean he will get the job. He is unpopular with ethnic Albanians, who make up a quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1m people. If most of them do not vote, turnout could fall below 40%—in which case the entire election has to be rerun.

That would be a problem Macedonia does not need. Its economy is stuttering. Exports of metals, textiles and farm produce have slumped. Unemployment is high, public spending must be cut and tensions are rising. Violence broke out in Skopje on March 28th during a protest over plans for a new church in the centre.

Macedonia remains fragile eight years after it almost lapsed into war. Testy relations with its neighbours do not help. For 18 years it has been locked in conflict with Greece over its name, which the Greeks say implies territorial pretensions to Greek Macedonia. Macedonia has won sympathy from other European countries in this dispute. But under the nationalist Mr Gruevski, it is losing it.

When Macedonia renamed Skopje airport for Alexander the Great in 2007, this seemed a one-off to annoy Greece. More recently, however, the government has broadened a policy the opposition calls “antiquisation”. The main road to Greece has been renamed for Alexander and the national sports stadium named after his father, and plans are afoot to erect a huge statue of Alexander in central Skopje. These gestures play well to a public that was incensed by Greece’s veto of an invitation to Macedonia to join NATO, but the country is losing friends. “It is nuts,” sighs one diplomat. “They don’t see the cause and effect.”

Alexander died in 323BC. The Slavs arrived only a thousand years later. But, says Pasko Kuzman, an archaeologist at the culture ministry, Macedonians are a mix of all the people who have ever lived in the region, so they have every right to treat Alexander as a symbol. Besides, he adds, Greece denies the very existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece.

Macedonia’s ethnic Albanians have mostly stayed out of this debate. Some officials say antiquisation was a sop to offset the shock of not being let into NATO. They dearly want the European Union to grant visa-free travel to Macedonians this year (and then open membership talks). If people in Macedonia and elsewhere in the western Balkans lose hope of ever joining the EU, says Macedonia’s deputy prime minister, Ivica Bocevski, everybody should start worrying about regional stability.


At 5:13 PM, Blogger BILJANA said...

I would like to say "funny", except I am here, in the middle of the name game, I don't feel like playing and funny for me it is not.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger beppe said...

I know it (at least I can imagine).
Among the others, politicians are the worst problem in the Balkans.
Tomorrow I'm going to post another article about Bih, where "our heroes" (politicians)seem to be once again in the mood for "dangerous" and criminal games.
So sad.
So unfair.
So stupid.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger cicciosax said...

Cmq stu articolo secondo me è abbastanza falsato. Grueski non è affatto un nazionalista nel senso che uno si può immaginare nei balcani: non assomiglia per niente a Seseli, anzi è giovane, intelligente simpatico, ha studiato in america, è esperto di economia... Sulla relazione degli albanesi, è stata sempre difficilissima, ma scusate come fa a scrivere una cosa del genere l'economist proprio adesso che Selmani, prende voti dalla comunità albanese e ha formato il primo vero partito moderato da parte albanese?
Per quanto riguarda la chiesa nella piazza, anche io, l'ho scritto su fb sono contrario, ma scusate, come può diventare un pretesto per dire che in amcedonia va tutto a rotoli? È uno scioperino/scioperone su dove mettere una chiesa, un problema interno, mica roba internazionale! In ultimo, il grande errore della macedonia è continuare con sta cosa di Alessandro, per la loro identità dovrebbero puntare sulla macedonia ottomana. Ma. Ma non si può impedire alla macedonia di utilizzare il nome "Macedonia" e di fare riferiemnto a Alessandro, questa è una ricchezza di quell'area e non appartiene a nessuna etnìa in particolare. Bisognerà praticare una parola difficile e poco usata nei balcani: compromesso.


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