Macedonian spat marks end of Greek presidency

Antonis Samaris. European Council, March 2014. [European Council/Flickr]

During his last appearance in the European Parliament in his capacity as EU President, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he did not know about the existence of a Macedonian language, and that this tongue was created by the communists in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Samaras, who debriefed MEPs on the six-month Greek presidency that ended on 30 June, was asked yesterday (2 July) by a journalist of Macedonia's MIA agency, about their country's blocked EU accession process. Then he got entangled in a dispute with the journalist over the language issue.

“I am unaware of the existence of the Macedonian language. The EU accession process is carried out according to merit. The European Council decided not to start the accession talks with countries that do not meet the criteria, since this puts into question the credibility of the enlargement process” Samaras said, as quoted by the press in Skopje.

The journalist replied that the Macedonian language existed and that it was recognised by linguists over the world and that it was also spoken by the Macedonian minority in Greece, which the Greek state did not recognise.

In response, speaking in French, Samaras said that the Macedonian language was invented by the communists.

The exchange appears to illustrate the difficult relation between Athens and Skopje, at a time when the small Balkan nation wants to move on along its EU integration path. Greece doesn’t recognise the name of Macedonia, which is identical to its southernmost province (see background). But now Samaras signalled that Athens had also problems with the country’s language.

Macedonia was a republic of the former Yugoslavia until 1991, when it declared independence. Yugoslavia was a communist country created in the aftermath of World War II, led by Josip Broz Tito until his death in 1980. During Tito’s Yugoslavia, only three languages officially existed: Serbo-Croat, Macedonian and Slovene. Following the collapse of Yugoslavia, also appeared the Croat, Bosnian and Montenegrin languages.

Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, part of the Yugoslav federation, in 1945. Most of its codification was formalised in this period.

The Macedonian language is a matter of political controversy in Greece and also in Bulgaria. Bulgaria was the first country to recognise independent Macedonia, but has difficulty recognising the Macedonian language. When signing bilateral documents, the formula is that those are signed in the “official languages of the two countries”.

Bulgarian professor Bozhidar Dimitrov, a former minister, says that the Macedonian language is “nothing but Bulgarian written on a Serbian typewriter”.  He has reminded that after 1945, the Macedonian government appointed a special commission led by Blagoy Konev, with the task of putting up a Macedonian language, which in his words had not existed before.

Asked today to comment the statements by Samaras, Peter Stano, spokesperson to Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle, said he had nothing to say.

As not all EU countries recognise Macedonia with its constitutional name, the Commission calls it “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The Commission has sometimes used the adjective “Macedonian” in its official documents.

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macedonia's picture

As a Greek, I am becoming seriously annoyed by all the unethical bigots that continue to support the former Yugoslavians in their "Macedonia" word games. Everyone with a brain larger than a peanut knows they aren't "ethnic" Macedonian. They are primarily ethnic Bulgarians who had their identity obliterated by Yugoslav communists. Prior to the communists, "Macedonian" references were specifically to Bulgarian Macedonians living in Vardar Yugoslavia. (which Tito recognized as an ethnic group as a method to deBulgarize them for easier assimilation into Yugoslavia)

One no longer needs historical narratives to observe the weasa; apologists of the former Yugoslavians evasively and quick unethically try to whitewash the former Yugoslavians transformation into "ancient Macedonians" and manipulation of the name to promote irredentism against (as Greeks warned against 20 years ago and were mocked by pretentious self-anointed "experts")

One has to wonder if the modern British would "recognize" western France as "England", its citizens as "ethnic English", their language as "English", as they claimed King Richard their national hero, and constantly insinuated the modern British were "occupying England". We suspect recognition of names would be a more sensitive matter then.

There are no more excuses for the evasion. irredentism isn't a "human right".

GreekPeanut's picture

Do we really expect anything more constructive from Samaras. This is the same man that drew up plans as Foreign Minister to carve the Republic of Macedonia up between Greece & Serbia during the breakup of Yugoslavia. For all of Milosevic's madness, even he could not agree to this.
Prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the word Macedonia could not even be breathed out aloud in Greece. Then began a systematic process of renaming everything to "Macedonia" by the Greek government.
Prior to this it committed atrocities against the Aegean Macedonians , expelled them from their lands, appropriated their property, forced the population to change their surnames to sound more Greek & forbid them to speak in their mother tongue.
So it should be as no surprise to anyone that the current policy is based on the continuation of the fascist policies adopted by Greece towards Macedonia for over 100 years now.
Just some food for thought re the Macedonian language, this was codified by the Saints Cryil & Methodi, holy men from Constantinople, that completed their work in Ohrid (Macedonia). From here the Cryllic language was spread throughout Eastern Europe. Its the original script of all the Slavic languages that are currently used & it came from Macedonia.
Greece's partion of Macedonia was only made justifiable by the Treaty of Bucharest. Britain was a vocal opponent of this treaty, France forced this treaty through for its own interests & to this day is the only member of the UN permanent security council which has not recognised the Republic of Macedonia.
The decision about the Republic of Macedonia can never been solved if we allow the immoral & corrupt behaviour of the Greek government to have any voice in the outcome, for they have spent over 100 years trying to silence the Macedonians.

Bitola's picture

It is clear what agenda this bigot is continuing to push. If this bankrupt oganization admits to their wrongdoings over the last 100 years towards the Macedonians, they would be in line to pay out a compensation of trillions and trillions of dollars and land which was annexed illegally when Macedonia was carved up in 1913. They don't have enough money to exist, let alone a pay out of mammoth proportions. This has little to do with ancient history, as it is quite easy to find historical records of a distinct Macedonian language throughout the ages. Those that wish to delve into this 'slav' disinformation will find that there is no such slav ethnicity, as it refers more to a language group, just like latin. You cannot be a 'slav' by blood. And if it were so, I don't believe these magical greeks would be immune to such a huge influence throughout Europe. If the Macedonians are ethnically slavs, then so are the Greeks.

macedonia's picture

The comments by former Yugoslavian extremists on this very thread is yet more evidence of what Greeks face. (hostile propaganda geared towards irredentism Greeks face on daily basis -- which FYROM's apologists evasively and unethically pretend not to notice)

Twenty years ago the former Yugoslavians assured their apologists they were not related to ancient macedonians. Post recognition they pretend to be related to ancient macedonians (hiding and oppressing their ethnic Bulgarian heritage). What the former Yugoslavian poster, who I would note now claims not to be slavic, ridiculous claims as a "distinct Macedonian language through the ages -- was known as a BULGARIAN dialect prior to communists modifying it and renaming in Macedonian. What the former Yugoslavian poster claims as an "illegal" division of Macedonia in 1913 was the liberation of Greece from Ottoman Turkey. If the former Yugoslavians believe something wrong was done during the they should give back their former Kingdom of ancient Paeonia back to the Turks from which they took it from.

All the unethical evasions of the former Yugoslavian apologists is achieving it breeding resentment by Greeks. There isn't a single "ethnic" Macedonian in the former Yugoslavia. It is a country built entirely on fraud and hatred of Greeks. No amount of recognition and evasion by FYROM's bigoted antihellenic apologists will change the Greek writing on countless ancient Macedonian artifacts. No amount of recognition will change ancient Macedonians into slavs.

macedonia's picture

Long forgotten assurances by the government of the former Yugoslavians.

'We are not related to the northern Greeks who produced leaders like Philip and Alexander the Great. We are a Slav people and our language is closely related to Bulgarian.' - FYROM´s Ambassador to Canada Gyordan Veselinov, Ottawa Citizen Newspaper, February 24 1999

'We do not claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great.' - FYROM'S Ambassador Ljubica Acevshka, speech to US representatives, Washington DC, January 22 1999

"We are Slavs. There's no connection between us and Alexander the Great. " - Kiro Gligorov, President of FYROM

"The creation of the Macedonian nation, for almost half of a century, was done in a condition of single-party dictatorship. In those times, there was no difference between science and ideology, so the “Macedonian” historiography, unopposed by anybody, comfortably performed a selection of the historic material from which the “Macedonian” identity was created. There is nothing atypical here for the process of the creation of any modern nation, except when falsification from the type of substitution of the word “Bulgarian” with the word “Macedonian” were made." - Denko Maleski, former Minister of foreign affairs of FYROM from 1991 to 1993 in an interview to FYROM newspaper Utrinski Vesnik