Macedonia rejected suggestions on Wednesday (18 July) it could end a row with Greece over its name by adopting an unwieldy acronym instead, saying it was as alien as the “Klingon” language used in Star Trek.
Athens, Brussels and the United Nations all refer to the Balkan country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), with Greece insisting that the name Macedonia should only be used for its own northern province.
“When you say FYROM, that has as much reference to my country as ‘Klingon’ from the Star Trek TV series,” Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told a news conference in Brussels.
The Klingons are a fictional human-like species with bumpy heads who run their own extraterrestrial empire in the US science fiction franchise.
Their language initially appeared as a few words at the end of the first Star Trek movie but has since become a full-blown fan cult, spawning an opera and Klingon translations of the Bible and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.
— Star Trek London (@StarTrekLondon) July 16, 2017
Despite his out-of-this world name comparison, the Macedonian minister hinted that another form of compromise was possible with Greece.
“I really believe we cannot resolve if one of the two parties will be quote unquote ‘defeated,'” Dimitrov said alongside the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn.
“We have to find a way where both countries will go forward with straight heads. I think that’s possible…. We need to do the right steps carefully and at the right time.”
Macedonia’s new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, suggested last month in Brussels that his country could join NATO and the EU under a provisional name in a bid to end the row.
“With the new government in place ready to actively engage in implementation of overdue reforms, there is a real opportunity to move the country forward on its European Union integration path,” Mogherini said.
The name issue came to the fore after Macedonia gained independence in the 1990s following the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia.
Greece claims a historical right to the term because the heart of Alexander the Great’s ancient kingdom lies in its northern province of Macedonia.
It has vetoed Skopje’s attempts to join NATO since 2008 because of the row.
Zaev, who aims to solve issues preventing his country join NATO and open EU accession negotiations, twitted yesterday that the good neighbourhood and friendship treaty with Bulgaria his government is negotiating is in the national interest of his country.
— Зоран Заев (@Zoran_Zaev) July 18, 2017
During Zaev’s visit to Sofia on 20 June, it was announced that Bulgaria and Macedonia will soon sign a bilateral treaty, removing some obstacles to Skopje’s bid to join NATO and the EU.
Ever since, Zaev has been attacked by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski, on the grounds that he is betraying the national interest.
Bulgaria doesn’t recognise the Macedonian language, which it considers a Bulgarian dialect artificially Serbianised during the Yugoslav period.
. By the way… How do you say "MACEDONIA" in the Klingon language?
Trekkers please respond!
— Macedonian Tendency (@DavidEdenden) July 18, 2017
This however should not be an obstacle for signing the treaty. On previous occasions, Sofia and Skopje signed documents in which it is stated that they are written “in the official languages of the two countries, according to their constitutions”.