It may be an unpalatable truth to admit, but the behavior of nations when it comes to diplomacy is not always handled at the most rational and mature manner. In 1991, the nation of North Macedonia  declared its independence from Yugoslavia and was able to do so without violence or conflict, which was extremely rare during that time and place. While there was no conflict with the nation receiving its independence, though, there was a great deal of conflict with Greece over its name. Originally entered into various international organizations as the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, Greece refused to accept the claim of North Macedonia to name itself as Macedonia. This was not a short-term problem, but rather one that continued for nearly thirty years from 1991 until 2019, when a bilateral agreement was made between the two nations so that North Macedonia would be allowed as a name, preserving the importance of Greece in recognizing the territories of South Macedonia that make up part of its northernmost territories.
One would not think that such a change would take 28 years in order to bring into agreement, not least because the people of North Macedonia are themselves speakers of a South Slavic nation and the Macedonia that once ruled over a large portion of the world thanks to Alexander the Great was itself a semi-barbaric but still Hellenic people. Be that as it may, it did take 28 years of sniping and bad blood for North Macedonia and Greece to bury the hatchet and come to terms. While this may seem to be a lot of wasted time, it is by no means the longest such unresolved conflict that exists. North Cyprus and Cyprus have been divided since the 1970’s with no signs of a peaceful accord to divide the territory of their island and recognize the independence of the Turkish-speaking republic there. Taiwan has been a de facto state since 1949 and an unrecognized one since the early 1970’s. Western Sahara and Somaliland are two other unrecognized states with strong claims where there appears to be little progress in recognizing their status with all that entails. So North Macedonia’s situation is by no means an unusual one in having taken so long to be resolved. What is perhaps surprising is that a simple cosmetic change of naming itself North Macedonia was sufficient for Greece to feel that its interests had been respected and to therefore drop its opposition to that nation’s entry into various alliances and unions.
North Macedonia, not surprisingly, is reaping the benefits of having squashed their beef at present. A few days ago they were were admitted as the 30th nation to be a part of NATO, thus helping to aid in the security interests that a small landlocked nation in the Balkans has. It is clear that this is a great benefit to North Macedonia in that it now benefits from the commitment of all of the other NATO nations to defend its borders from exterior aggression, though it is not clear who would have an interest among their neighbors in violating their sovereignty. Likewise, within the past week or so North Macedonia has received the green light for membership talks to begin, since Greece is no longer opposed to their entry into the EU and can likely now engage in mutually profitable cross-border trade. Considering that North Macedonia borders both Greece and Bulgaria, and has some issues with anti-Bulgarian political rhetoric within its country and a tangled history where Bulgaria has long considered North Macedonia to be an integral part of its own irredentist claims, the nation has some further negotiation to do, but its successful squashing of a long-held beef with Greece does bode well for its diplomatic savvy at least in being able to tone down conflicts that exist with Bulgaria as well. Given that North Macedonia also borders Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania, a closer tie to NATO and the European Union does bode well for its own security and economic interests. If only it were so easy for other nations to squash their beefs and reap the benefits of greater peace thereby.
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