To begin with, the problem has two players: Greece on the one side and on the other side the-how-should-I-call-it, former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia(FYROM). The problem is really complex and lies not only in the naming of FYROM, but also in the historical distortions and nationalist allegations it might yield. It is so important that is alive for some decades now and has triggered significant political events in both countries.
I am from Greece and it is a dispute I have lived with, throughout my entire life. I can still remember the ridiculous rallies that as a student I was engaged in (at the age of 9 or 10) during which we kept saying to ourselves: "Hell yeah, Macedonia is Greek!" and then went to our homes being sure we had done our job. In the meanwhile, Greek diplomacy was losing the one battle after the other and now we are engaged in talks of the so-called "composite naming". In other words, the naming dispute is a battle we have already lost. But let's take things from the beginning.
The whole buzz started in 1991. Tito's Yugoslavia is being teared apart and a new nation arises claiming to be the "Republic Of Macedonia". Kiro Gligorov is FYROM's Prime Minister and Costas Mitsotakis is Greece's. EU is using the name 'Macedonia' to which Greece objects and the dispute has just been born. In April 1992, Mr. Pineiro, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal attempts to solve the problem, by suggesting the name 'New Macedonia', Greece says 'Yeah right' and a fierce political warfare begins. In the key UN General Assembly of 1993 FYROM enters United Nations with the provisional reference "former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia" hence FYROM. Both terms here are important. Provisional means that this is temporary situation and reference means that FYROM is not the name of the state. UN washed its hands and said that the name was an issue to be resolved. China is the first to recognize FYROM as 'Republic Of Macedonia'. In the course of 1993 and 1994 all EU countries and USA, Japan and Russia also do the same, resulting in the loss of the naming battle. Greek diplomacy had tragically failed leading to political instability and the eventual fall of the government in October 1993. Whatever followed was just talks and talks, without any substantial political importance. The course had been drawn in 1993.
However, a key-development in the dispute was the 'Intermediate Agreement' in New York,1995. Greece lifted the economic embargo on FYROM that Andreas Papandreou had imposed as soon he had been elected Prime Minister and FYROM, on the other hand, abandoned a whole series of ridiculous actions: Using the Vergina Star (Ancient Macedonian symbol) as the national flag, correcting their constitution that was referring to 'Macedonian people and their rights in adjacent countries' and many other nonsense. While all other issues were solved the naming dispute was not, and it was agreed that the two countries should do that under the auspices of UN. In the agreement, Greece agreed not to refrain FYROM from entering international organizations, provided that it would enter with the name FYROM.
Now the news is that, our neighbor wishes to enter the NATO alliance while Greece says it will not agree and will impose a veto on FYROM's bid, if the naming dispute is not resolved beforehand. One of the criterions for entering NATO is 'good behavior and relationships whith neighbors' , which is Greece's front line of defense. This also is not in contradiction with the New York Intermediate Agreement, since this was an out-of-NATO agreement and hence does not affect in-NATO affairs.
Whatever might happen, today almost 123 countries have recognized FYROM as 'Republic Of Macedonia'. For the most of the foreigners, it is hard to understand the significance of this dispute. Anyone should be free to choose the name he desires, right? If people leaving in Skopje want to use the name 'Macedonia' for self-definition, so be it, right? Well yes, as long as this does not hurt anyone, this is true. For Greeks, Macedonia is a part of the land's history to be proud of. I will not try to give proofs that Macedonia is closely tied to Greek history. It was just another city-state like Athens or Sparta hence it is absolutely ridiculous to try to give any historical proof that Macedonia is Greek. For me it is.
As a little boy, I couldn't understand why this should even be a 'dispute'. It seemed to me that it was so easy to prove that Macedonia was Greek (Macedonians were speaking the Greek language, they lived in the area of Vergina which is a Greek town blah blah..) that it should not be an issue in the first place.
Well, now I know to some extent of course, that international diplomacy works otherwise. Some countries simply do not care about history but about business. For example, China.Who cares in China about the Macedonia dispute? The quickly recognized it (I am sure they didn't even have to look at the name) and started making business with the new country (FYROM was the usual entrance of Chinese products to the European market) Some on the other hand, follow USA which generally is busy creating problems in the Balkans area and carefully maintains a hot-spot inside Europe's heart by promoting Albans allegations (support of Albans during Serbia's civil wars then NATO bombings then support of Kosovo's independence, seems to me as a nice strategic plan)
However we are not cry-babies nor do we wish spending our lives correcting anyone who uses the term 'Macedonia' instead of FYROM. After all, our economic relations have flourished , proving once again that economy players live in their own world. Despite all the political heat and the tension between the two countries, the volume of our financial transactions has been up 1500% from 1995 to 2006 (50 million $ in 1995 and 800 million $ in 2006) Imagine what will happen if we start franchising other ancient Greek names. Then our economy will skyrocket!
In summary my view is this: I look with sympathy our neighbor that is trying to find an identity to be proud of. However, the distortion that this causes is much more significant. People might connect the term 'Macedonia', 'Alexander The Great' and others with a territory that had nothing to do with Ancient and Modern Macedonia but also more importantly with people that have a negative DNA match with Ancient Greece. If this sounds nationalist so be it. I will keep on spending my time for this cause nonetheless. And we will keep on editing ridiculous Wikipedia articles like this one about FYROM:
"Over the centuries the territory which today forms the Republic of Macedonia was ruled by a number of different states and former empires, but Macedonian blood has always run in the genes of the Macedonians living in this region."
How ridiculous does this sound?? If anyone wishes to play on blood terms he can try understanding this:
"Αλέξανδρος Φιλίππου και οι Έλληνες πλην Λακεδαιμονίων"
That's all Greek to you? I am sure it is.
P.S - Not important since it has historical truths
To be serious it is all in the name: Macedonian comes from the Greek "μακεδνός" (makednos) meaning someone which is tall. Greek Macedonians are generally tall people compared to the 1.65 average of the other 'edition'