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February 19, 2009  

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Letter to Secretary of State Clinton


The Honorable
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

On behalf of the nationwide membership of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), we congratulate you on your appointment and confirmation as Secretary of State.  We wish you every success as you forge ahead in your very important task of developing and carrying out the foreign policy agenda of the Administration.

As you begin to formulate and advance the foreign policy objectives of the Administration, we look forward to working with you and your staff to strengthen the historic bonds of friendship between the United States and Greece, our long-time faithful ally, and to improve upon the good relations between the United States and Cyprus.

In this regard, we take the opportunity to write to you in advance of your forthcoming meeting on February 25, 2009 with the Foreign Minister of Greece, Dora Bakoyiannis, in order to bring to your attention a number of issues for your consideration.

The projection of U.S. interests in the region depends heavily on the stability of the region.  Therefore, the United States has an important stake in fostering good relations between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, and in achieving a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Greece is of vital importance for the projection of U.S. strategic interests in the region by virtue of, among other factors, its geographic location and its role as home to the most important naval base in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Souda Bay, Crete. 

A key to stability in the region is for Greece and Turkey to have good relations with each other, promote democratic ideals and principles, and maintain growing economies.  However, Turkey’s continuing occupation of Cyprus, its intransigence in solving the Cyprus problem, its refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus and its veto to the accession of Cyprus to international organizations, its continuing violations of Greece’s  territorial waters and airspace, and continuing religious and human rights violations in Turkey, threatens and prevents this stability, and damages U.S. interests.  

As important as these matters are, for the purpose of this visit, we highlight the very sensitive issue concerning Greecethe ongoing name issue regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as it relates to our interests and that of our most important ally in the Balkans—Greece.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

As you know, President Barack Obama, while in the Senate, was one of three original lead co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 300, which urged that the FYROM work with Greece within the framework of the United Nations process to reach a mutually acceptable official name for that country and achieve longstanding U.S. and U.N. policy goals.

In a statement that his campaign released to the Greek American community in October 2008, he stated:

“…[I] support the UN-led negotiations and believe that there can and should be an agreement between Skopje and Athens on a mutually-acceptable name that leads to greater stability in the Balkans.”

Greece is by far the strategic key for the United States in the Balkans and the most economic and politically stable country in the Balkans.  By contrast, the FYROM is of little or no strategic significance to the national security interests of the United States.

However, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by the government of the FYROM against its neighbor, Greece, poses a potential threat to stability in the Balkans, to the detriment of U.S. interests.

At the same time, it seems that it has been the U.S.’s policy to take Greece for granted over the years.  The sensitivities and concerns of our most important ally in the Balkans, and one of our most loyal and long-time allies have not always been considered.   Successive administrations have looked upon Greece as a Western nation and an ally that will not rock the boat and will follow what the United States and the major NATO nations desire.  This policy has been unfortunate and has created unnecessary problems -- such as the FYROM name issue.

Greece has made a major compromise by proposing “a compound name for the country; a name that will distinguish it from both the Greek and Bulgarian part.” Greece’s position is unambiguous.  It has gone the extra mile. It wants a negotiated, mutually acceptable solution that will be valid internationally, in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Foreign Minister Bakoyannis publicly expressed Greece’s readiness to accept a composite name.  This is a serious shift of tremendous importance from Greece’s initial position. Unfortunately, this gesture was not reciprocated by the FYROM. The time is ripe for FYROM to demonstrate the maturity and the responsibility that a state needs in order to become a member of NATO and the European Union.

The United States can easily turn the situation around by informing FYROM that it supports the Greek government’s major compromise of accepting “a compound name for their country, a name that will distinguish it from both the Greek and Bulgarian” part.

The immediate settlement of the name issue, in a way that is acceptable to Greece, will allow the United States’ strongest ally in the Balkans to be the driving force for FYROM’s membership to NATO and ultimately to the European Union.  FYROM’s “passport” to NATO and the European Union is Greece.

It is, however, FYROM, that is the intransigent party in this regard, and not Greece. FYROM must realize that in order to join NATO, it must focus on the fulfillment of NATO’s good neighborly relations principle and the immediate settlement of the difference over the name.  Greece is the biggest investor in FYROM and literally helps to sustain FYROM’s precarious economy and reduces its large unemployment.  Greece is also a leader in investment and economic development in Southeastern Europe, with over $22 billion invested.

Yet, FYROM continues to provoke Greece and refuses to negotiate in good faith over the name issue.  Unfortunately, actions over the years -- such as distortion of geographic maps, naming its airport “Alexander the Great,” revisionist textbooks in schools and inflammatory comments by top government officials -- encourage new generations in FYROM to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece. Further, this continuing systematic government policy will hinder FYROM’s accession to both the EU and NATO. This is the real threat to stability in the Balkans.

Further, since Prime Minister of the FYROM, Mr. Nikola Gruevski, came to power in August 2006 he has followed a long-term policy of extreme nationalism and provocation against Greece, in a manner which is totally inconsistent with European values. This conscious political decision is being implemented through numerous actions and statements, which breach essential provisions of the Interim Accord and undermine the efforts to build a climate of trust, cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

Most recently, Prime Minister Gruevski has:

  • named part of the Pan-European Corridor that runs through FYROM’s territory, after Alexander the Great. It should be noted that this project is partly financed by Greece which has pledged the amount of $75 million in the framework of the Hellenic Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans
  • renamed the main stadium of Skopje after "Philip II, the Macedon;" and
  • re-introduced the "Sun of Vergina" as a symbol of his country in government financed TV spots broadcasted internationally. It should be noted that FYROM has committed itself to cease to use in any way the “Sun of Vergina” in all its forms.

It’s also worth noting that on February 4, 2009, 27 NGO’s in FYROM issued a statement condemning FYROM’s government policy against Greece and have severely criticized Prime Minister Gruevski’s decision to rename part of the Pan-European Corridor “Alexander of Macdon,” as antiquity based propaganda.

Unfortunately, the irresponsible decision by the previous administration in the fall of 2004 to recognize FYROM as the “Republic of Macedonia” has contributed greatly to FYROM’s increasingly intransigent stance and has served to undermine the negotiations.

In our view, and in the view of many others, U.S. actions over the years regarding the FYROM name dispute have constituted an American foreign policy blunder that has damaged U.S. interests in the Western Balkans and harmed Greece, our key ally in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, for no sound reason.

For the record, there is no unqualified universally accepted rule of international law that authorizes a state to name itself anything it wants.

Therefore, we call upon you, Madame Secretary, to please use your influence with FYROM to impress upon them to negotiate in good faith with Greece to resolve the name issue and to cease immediately their irredentist propaganda against Greece, which violates the UN-brokered Interim Accord, as stated in Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Accord, signed in New York on September 13 1995 between FYROM and Greece. 

A name that satisfies both countries and the immediate halting of all provocative actions against Greece will satisfy the interests of all the parties.

If FYROM refuses to cooperate, the United States should consider withdrawing its 2004 recognition of FYROM as the “Republic of Macedonia.” 

We write this in the interests of the United States and for the support of our long-time and loyal ally, Greece, who is our most important strategic partner in the region and the key country for stability in the region.


Aleco Haralambides
Aleco Haralambides


Nick Larigakis
Nick Larigakis
Executive Director


Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Bryza
Director of Southern European Affairs Kathy Fitzpatrick
Senior Greek Desk Officer Adam Scarlatelli
“Republic of Macedonia” Desk Officer Anna Stinchcomb
The Congress


The American Hellenic Institute is a nonprofit public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and also within the American Hellenic community.

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