Macedonia—What’s in a Name?

The Skopje name issue is in the headlines again, bringing back a question posed by certain people in Greece who supposedly “mean well” and some foreigners who are badly misinformed and wonder why the Greeks insist with such determination that Skopje should not be called “Macedonia.” All of them are obviously ignorant of the fact that according to international law all kinds of names, and not just the name of a state, are of great importance. This is a particularly sensitive and critical issue, because it extends legal rights. To further explain it, some typical examples will be mentioned below:

Many of you know that Great Britain was not accepted in the EU (“EEC” back then) under its own name but as “The United Kingdom.” This happened because the French province of Brittany, where there have always been some clear separatist tendencies, is located on the west end of France, across from England. Behind the scenes, the then French President, General de Gaulle, had pointed out that he would never accept Britain’s accession to the EEC under that name. As a consequence, when Great Britain became a member of the EEC in 1973 after De Gaulle’s death, it joined in as “The United Kingdom.”

The case of Germany is even more striking. After the end of World War II, the country was divided into the Western Occupation Zone (American, British, and French) and the Eastern Occupation Zone (Soviet). In 1949, the State of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was established in the Western Occupation Zone. Despite the fact that Germany was defeated and destroyed, it did not hesitate to protect its national interests within the framework of international law. The German government, diplomacy, the Press, the media and all official documents (maps, school books, government papers) both domestically and internationally used the name “Bundesrepublik Deutschland,” always fully spelt as a noun in the nominative case, neither abbreviated (“BRD”) nor in the genitive case (“Deutschlands”).

This policy had been applied for almost forty-one years, firmly and unwaveringly, declaring in every direction that the “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (Federal Republic [of] Germany) was, in terms of international law, the real Germany, the sole and legitimate successor of the German Reich which was founded by Bismarck in 1871, and capitulated in 1945. On the other hand, they did not recognise the state established in the Soviet Occupation Zone (East Germany) as the “German Democratic Republic” (GDR). At first, and for two decades, they called it the “Soviet Occupation Zone” or “Soviet Sector.” Then, from 1960 until the reunification in 1990, they called it the “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” (DDR) or “die sogenannte DDR” (“the so-called DDR”), i.e. something similar to “FYROM” nowadays. It is worth noting that this name has always been mentioned and spelt in its abbreviated form and inside quotation marks, neither fully spelt nor fully pronounced.

They followed this practice in order to proclaim that “the so-called DDR” still remained (in accordance with international law) a de jure territorial part of the only legitimate Germany represented by West Germany; the East part was temporarily under a different regime, de facto outside the borders and jurisdiction of Bonn. They, therefore, argued that there were no two equal Germanies but only one (Federal Germany), part of which was under occupation. In the context of implementing his famous “Eastern Policy” (Ostpolitik), Chancellor Willy Brandt opened up to the Eastern countries in the early 1970s, including East Germany of course, and entered into de facto relations with it. However, the issues arising between the two states were not handled by the Foreign Office in Bonn. To keep such a strict policy without having to give East Germany any diplomatic recognition, Bonn had created a new government ministry right from scratch: the “Ministry of All-German Affairs,” later renamed “Ministry of Intra-German Relations.” Representative Offices instead of Embassies were set up, and contacts were carried out by representatives, not ambassadors (i.e. diplomats). Furthermore, the Karlsruhe Constitutional Court issued a statement according to which the relations established de facto were not a de jure (according to law) recognition of “the so-called DDR.” “The Federal Republic [of] Germany” remained the only legitimate successor to the Reich.

Due to the Cold War, no country of the Western world recognised East Germany. It was only recognised by the Eastern Bloc countries, some non-Allies, and some Third World countries. In order to deal with this situation, Germany applied the so-called “Hallstein Doctrine” from 1955 to 1973, named after Walter Hallstein, State Secretary at the Foreign Office in Konrad Adenauer’s Chancellery. According to that Doctrine, the Federal Republic of Germany would not enter into or maintain diplomatic relations with any country that recognised the “German Democratic Republic of Germany.” In particular, it kept Independent and Third World countries under threat that it would stop giving them the German development aid they needed (i.e. money).

Because of Germany’s strong stance on the name issue between its two separate parts, when the reunification happened in 1990, the signed Treaty was not called a “Reunification Treaty” but, instead, a “Two Plus Four Agreement” (two parts of Germany plus four occupation forces). This, as far as international law is concerned, is crucial because it means that it was not two states that joined together, but an occupied part of Germany was annexed/incorporated into the legitimate German state. This move, of course, took place only after the four world powers gave their consent that it would not be called a “Peace Treaty.” Had it been called so, other serious issues of international law would have emerged in relation to World War II reparations paid by Germany.

A Peace Treaty would have had to be signed by all the countries on the winning side of WWII—and they would have, of course, put forward on Germany their financial demands. In order to prevent such a negative outcome, Germany told the countries calling for war reparations to look into the matter a f t e r the Reunification. But, guess what, “it was not two different states that joined together” and “many years have passed anyway,” so Germany will not recognise the right to reparations! This proves the enormous significance of a name as regards international law. On the other hand, the Germans (tolerated by all of our politicians, except Golden Dawn) are pressuring us to accept the name “Macedonia” for Skopje!

One more critical point: Under the 1945 Potsdam Treaty, the Prussian state was abolished. This included the German territories east of Berlin up to Königsberg (today’s Kaliningrad), most of which was ceded to Poland and Russia. To avoid any future national disputes, Germany was banned from using the term “Prussia.” This is precisely the policy that Greece should have pursued in relation to the term “Macedonia” when the breakup of Yugoslavia occurred. But, who would have thought about it, let alone dared ask for it?

From all the above, you definitely realise why it would be treason to offer Skopje the name “Macedonia.” We would legitimise them to claim that they are the true descendants of Alexander the Great and, consequently, the legitimate successors of his state, “rightly” aspiring to incorporate our Macedonia into their own country. On top of that, they would even assert the right to prohibit the true Macedonians, the Greeks, from being called Macedonian themselves!

Finally, to those who claim that we have fallen into a quagmire just because a large number of countries have already recognised Skopje as “Macedonia,” our answer should be that towards those countries we will simply apply the Hallstein Doctrine, and we are going to veto their relations with NATO and the EU. Cyprus must also implement Germany’s DDR policy with regard to Cypriot occupied territory; it should be neither discussing nor working together with the occupying “authorities.”

To do so, it would take a national government to decide the fate of Greece—but, those fearful, treacherous and servile people who have been ruling our country for the last 45 years are a fate worse than death.

Georgios Epitideios
Retired Army Lieutenant General
Member of the European Parliament
for the Popular Association “Golden Dawn”