The Australian government’s long-held position of the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was raised again in federal parliament last week, this time by WA Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan.
In her speech, Ms MacTiernan, Member for Perth, echoed efforts by fellow WA MP Luke Simpkins to reverse Australia’s policy on the naming issue, and added her own voice stridently to the debate, telling the House of Representatives that it was “common sense … that we should not continue to burden a country with a name that it hates”.
Ms MacTiernan said that in line with the United States’ and the UK’s acceptance to refer to FYROM as the ‘Republic of Macedonia’, she wished “to see a bipartisan approach adopted in Australia in resolving this issue”.
The MP’s comments are the latest efforts by a handful of parliamentarians to sway Australia’s policy away from the position it has held since 1993, after the United Nations declared the name FYROM should be used until such time as Athens and Skopje agreed a mutually acceptable title for the country that was formerly part of Yugoslavia.
In the seemingly intractable dispute over the naming issue, the United Nations’ mediation process is in stagnation, without even a time-frame established for further talks, since government officials from Athens and Skopje met last November.
Meanwhile, efforts in Australia by MPs whose electorates have significant pro-Skopje diaspora communities have increased in an attempt to redirect Australia’s foreign policy on the issue.
Their push comes at a time when the Greek Australian community appears more galvanised than ever to argue Greece’s rights to negotiate the use of the term ‘Macedonia’.
Last month the publication of Macedonian Hellenes in Oceania – the latest much-acclaimed book by Professor Anastasios Tamis – was described as a “new line in the sand” by former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.
Another revered Australian academic, John Melville-Jones – Emeritus Professor at The University of Western Australia, an acknowledged (and unarguably independent) expert on the history of the Macedonian region and its relationship to ethnic identification, told Neos Kosmos:
“If only the Yugoslav Macedonians would agree to accept the name ‘North Macedonia’, and preferably stop printing maps which show their country and Greece joined together, both sides could move forward. It would be good for both of them.”
Until such time, calls by MPs for the Australian government to change its course on the naming issue are likely to fall on deaf ears.