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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-07-06

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't: Time has come for FYROM to offer convincing answers to irredentist maps, texts

  • [01] Gov't: Time has come for FYROM to offer convincing answers to irredentist maps, texts

    The Greek government on Wednesday again took up the issue of irredentist maps and texts either directly or indirectly promoted by the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), following a same-day report in an Athens daily.

    The latest instance of an irredentist map and text was apparently detected within the pages of a textbook used by junior high school pupils in FYROM. Specifically, a map showing the Balkans and prominently depicting a region identified as "Macedonia", with the latter includuing significant portions of modern-day Greece and Bulgaria. Three hands, meanwhile, extending from the south (Greece), east (Bulgaria) and north (Serbia) are seen on the illustration as encroaching on this "greater Macedonia's" territory. Moreover, Albania isn't even demarcated on the notorious map.

    A relevant report and the illustration were published by the Wednesday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini".

    During his regular press briefing on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos called the map and the related school text a "serious matter".

    "The matter that arose affects FYROM's foreign ministry, and especially the veracity of the answers and statements it has given," Koumoutsakos said, referring to a similar instance last week, when a website linked with the FYROM ministry's website featured a map incorporating land from each of the land-locked country's neighbors.

    That link was subsequently removed from the FYROM ministry's official site, although the Skopje government insisted at the time that it was not responsible for the content of independent websites.

    In linking both instances of "creative map-making", Koumoutsakos criticised the previous response by FYROM's foreign ministry as "lacking substance".

    "The fundamental question is whether school textbooks (in the neighboring country) and their content are a matter involving private parties?" he asked.

    In broadening the issue beyond just maps and periodic irredentist language long considered a nuisance by successive Greek governments, Koumoutsakos referred directly to the previously strife-ridden former Yugoslav state's European prospects.

    "The time has come for persuasive answers to be given on the issue of irredentist and threatening propaganda ... these answers are not just demanded by Greece, but are primarily a demand linked with Europe's political reality. Europe is allergic to irredentism; it's hoped that this propaganda does not act as a stranglehold on policies that must be followed in order to solve problems and outstanding issues that exist in the region," the spokesman said.

    Koumoutsakos concluded by saying that the problem lies squarely with the FYROM side and not the Greek government, whereas he noted that the international political and diplomatic mood vis-a-vis the "name issue" still separating the two countries has shifted in Athens' favour.

    Greece provided a guarded but more-or-less positive reaction to a recent proposal by a special UN mediator over a mutually acceptable name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, whereas the Skopje government flatly rejected any compromise solution.

    Although Athens and Skopje have achieved remarkable progress in bilateral relations, especially in trade and investments, since signing a UN-mediated "interim agreement" almost 10 years ago, the "name issue" continues to block the full normalisation of ties.

    Athens strenuously opposes FYROM's use of the name "Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons. Moreover, Greece's largest province, which shares borders with FYROM, is called Macedonia, the same geographical region that more-or-less corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.

    Additionally, he reiterated that Greece's positions regarding EU-FYROM ties remain unchanged, in light of an EU-FYROM Association Council meeting expected to take place at the end of the month.

    Finally, the spokesman said any next move -- as far as UN-mediated efforts to resolve the "name issue" are concerned -- must hail from the FYROM side, while noting that whereas contacts are continuing, a lull has been observed in terms of real developments.


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