• George Baines

The Macedonian Question - The Case for Greater European Institutions


Macedonians in Skopje rally in support of changing their country's name on Sept. 16. (Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images)

This year we remembered the fallen at the mark of the Armistice Day Centenary. Since the transition from adversarial nation state relations to multilateral cooperation, it has unequivocally benefited the majority of us in continental Europe. But the gunpowder keg, i.e. the Balkans, still plays a considerable role in Europe, as the Macedonian Question illustrates.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a South Balkan state which emerged in 1991, is currently under the gaze of the Western community. A diplomatic spat with Greece over its possible name change has been ongoing, though many hope it will come to a head next year. What this short essay seeks to argue is the extent to which both borders and states play a role in the Balkans, and how international regimes can resolve power struggles in the Balkans.

Indeed, let us compare the territorial arrangements in the early 20th century in the Balkan area. As an area splintered along relict and ethnically incongruent demographic lines, the southern Slavic region was labelled a shatter-belt in the 19th century to describe the countries which were undermining the unity of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. Later adopted by Anglo-Saxon political scientists, it classified those countries between Europe’s Atlantic periphery and the Eurasian continental core, Russia. Most recently, the phenomenon of Balkanisation has been observed between Germany and Russia. The constant centre of interest has nevertheless been the Balkans.[1] Characterised similarly by tectonic points of contact, shatter zones are characterised by the collision point between poles of power; be it nation states (Russia and Atlantic Europe) or religion (Orthodox Christianity, Catholic Christianity and Islam).[2]