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Serbian's Choice 03/17/2008

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Hellenic Electronic Center (HEC)
A Non-Profit Organization Registered in the US
with 37,000 Hellenes as members and
36 Hellenic associations in the US and abroad

March 17, 2008

The March 14 editorial, "Serbia's choice" is a poorly thought out critique of the turmoil in the Balkans. The editorial acknowledges that the separatist activities of the Albanians in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are the direct cause of the current crisis,and subsequently proceeds to criticize NATO member Greece for demanding support from its alleged allies. The traditional policy of NATO was that an attack on one member is an attack against all. Skopje has given comfort and support toward radicals who covet the Greek province of Macedonia.

The "confusion" which the Financial Times casually dismisses, has the potential to lay the groundwork for greater turmoil in the Balkans by legitimizing Skopje's use of the name Macedonia. If FYROM is in such a dire situation as the editorial implies, NATO membership can be instantaneously achieved by renouncing claims toward the Hellenic territory and heritage of Macedonia. The government of FYROM cannot portray itself as victim in one instance, while simultaneously adopting an intransigent stance toward Greece.

What is unhelpful are not the facts that have been put forward by Greece, but editorials such as these in the Financial Times which reach conclusions while totally excluding the Greek perspective. Should Greece stand aside and permit its neighbor to openly claim Hellenic territory and permit the theft of its history and heritage? Perhaps the Financial Times should extend criticism to the Albanian nationalists that are the real threat to FYROM. It is difficult to grasp how NATO membership can protect FYROM from an internal separatist threat that has clearly been encouraged by the precedent of Kosovo.



Serbia's choice

Published: March 14 2008 02:00 | Last updated: March 14 2008 02:00

Serbia's voters have the chance to decide their troubled country's future after President Boris Tadic yesterday called early elections.

When they vote on May 11, with the Kosovo crisis heavy on their hearts, they will have to choose between two very different outlooks. Mr Tadic's Democrats and their allies will pledge to fight for rapid European Union integration, working around the Kosovo issue rather than confronting it head on. Prime minister Vojislav Kostunica's conservatives and the nationalist Radical party will insist on no compromises. To avoid being cast as a traitor, Mr Tadic muddies the waters by claiming he can secure both EU integration and Kosovo. But most voters are not fooled: they know the choice they face.

Unfortunately the election will not produce a clear result. Voters will mostly split three ways, as they did in the last parliamentary poll, between Mr Tadic, Mr Kostunica and the Radicals. Mr Kostunica will have to choose between a pro-EU or a nationalist coalition. Serbian voters must persuade him to go for the EU. The alternative is isolation from the west and a position among Moscow's client states alongside Belarus and Uzbekistan.

Brussels should avoid being drawn into the campaign. But it can promote integration from the margins. Yesterday's news that EU accession talks with Croatia should be finished by late 2009 was most welcome for the whole region. The timetable should inspire Croatia to finish preparations and encourage other countries to follow Zagreb's example, not least Belgrade.

The region's urgent need for EU-oriented progress was underlined by worrying developments in Macedonia, where the government faces collapse. While the immediate cause is an internal ethnic row, the country is under severe external pressure from neighbouring Greece. Athens refuses to recognise Macedonia under its chosen name, insisting it must be known internationally as Fyrom - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece is concerned a change might somehow prompt Macedonian claims to the Greek province of Macedonia.

Greece should drop this approach. The hazards of confusing Macedonia with Greek Macedonia are nothing compared with the risks of instability in Macedonia. The country needs the confidence-boost that would come from full international recognition for its name. It is particularly dangerous that this row has flared when Macedonia, along with Croatia and Albania, is hoping to join Nato. It would be inexcusable if Macedonia lost out because of this unhelpful argument with Greece.

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