What’s in a name ?

By Håkan Wiberg

Originally published here.

There are many cases of conflicts where one party (sometimes both) makes demands that appear absurd to an outsider, not least because they will obviously be unacceptable to the other party. The eight points in the Greek position on the name issue of Macedonia looks like a good example.

Sovereign and internally recognized states sometimes change names. “The kingdom of…” becomes “The (people’s democratic, Arab, or whatever) republic of….”. In recent decades, several states changed their names entirely to become Benin, Myanmar, etc.; Cote d´Ivoire even notified the UN that its name was now the same in English, rather than Ivory Coast. When recognition is an issue, one state may refuse to use the name the other state has taken, such as German Democratic Republic (Soviet occupation zone), Republic of China (Taiwan), Israel (the Zionist entity).

Greece, however, seems to be only state that has demanded that an internationally recognised state change its name and makes a vast issue out of it. I can imagine the mixture of outrage and laughter that would result from Great Britain demanding that Ireland change its name to “Southern Ireland” or China asking for Mongolia to become “Northern Mongolia”. [Read more…]