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September 06, 2006

England versus who?

Whatever I do today, when I'm talking about the England match I must, must, must not refer to England's opponents as anything other than The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And let's just hope nobody over here sees this advert from the FA's website about the return fixture in October.


Diplomatic relations between Greece and FYROM have been strained ever since the country declared independence from the old Yugoslavia - with the key problem being the choice of 'Macedonia' as their name. Macedonia is the name of a supra-region that takes in parts of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania, and also the name of one of Greece's northern provinces - one which they fear that the land-locked Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has the beady eye of territorial ambition upon in order to gain access to the sea.


The name of the region has a long heritage, but a lot of it is associated with the lands that now form part of Greece. The ancient kingdom of Macedon, for example, was mostly centred around the areas which are in Greece. After the Balkans wars in the early 1900s the overall region of Macedonia was divided between Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. The present day FYROM is based solely on one of the old republics that made up Yugoslavia.

The dispute over the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia's name is still a hot one here. Even as recently as last week Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was warning the newly appointed government in FYROM that:

"the Greek Parliament, irrespective of its composition, would never ratify FYROM's accession into the EU and NATO, if the name issue has not been resolved beforehand".

After the republic was formed, the naming issue saw hundreds of thousands of people on the streets protesting in both countries. On the Greek side there was anger that FYROM had dared to use an indisputably Greek name, and on the Macedonian side there was anger that their constitution and nationhood was not being recognised internationally.

Macedonianflags During the nineties the Greeks and the Macedonians even had a dispute about what was on the new country's flag. It used to feature the Vergina Sun symbol, which was a symbol of the old Kingdom of Macedon located in modern Greek territory. This was removed from the flag in 1995.

Some of the world's more unilateralist countries - the United States, Russia, and the People's Republic of China are amongst them - have dropped the FYRO bit from their recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. I suspect that the Greek's are fighting a losing battle here, and the reality on the ground is that Greece makes a lot of investment into FYROM and that relations are generally good.

And a little known fact about the FYROM?

Thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development, the country is apparently fully covered by broadband wifi. Given the struggle I've had with OTE over getting the internet here, perhaps I should consider moving there.

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