North Macedonia, New Macedonia

MAY is gone, yet the tiny Yugoslav republic of Macedonia is not recognized, as European Community leaders implied it would be by now. Macedonia, on the border with Greece, voted twice for independence, has ethnic harmony, and scored better than Bosnia or Croatia on the EC test for recognition. Yet EC member Greece blocks recognition of the last Yugo-republic to seek it.

Greece says the name Macedonia, chosen by Tito in 1945, implies territorial claims in Greece and is an insult to Greeks, the true claimants to ancient Macedonia. Athens is incensed to put it mildly.

As we said last month, it's absurd to think that a poor, unarmed republic of 2 million would seize land from a major NATO member - especially since Macedonia's new Constitution disavows territorial claims. Tito has been gone for a decade. Macedonia's President Kiro Gligorov once supported Tito - what Yugoslav leader didn't? Serbs are the expansionists now, and there are few Serbs in Macedonia.

It sets stranger legal precedents than we already have seen in Balkan recognitions to say a state must have a name approved before it is sovereign.

But with a spreading ethnic war in the Balkans, logic is a weak currency. If Macedonia wants its name, it may have to wait - even though it is in a diplomatic limbo with no real business and trade.

Here's a compromise: Why not call it North Macedonia - or New Macedonia? This retains the name but suggests a formal separateness. Extremists may argue "New" or "North" still implies claims (though there is no South or Old Macedonia). Good diplomacy can change that. Besides, Mr. Mitsotakis, now both premier and foreign minister of Greece, has used enough diplomatic capital on this issue and may desire some resolution in the EC.

Taking a family name by those who seem outsiders understandably rankles. But two generations of Yugoslavs have grown up with and identify with "Macedonia." It may now be as hard for politicians in Skopje to give up the name as it is for those in Athens to accept it. Both sides can give a bit.

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