Spyridon Sfetas

Institute for Balkan Studies


In the Shadow of the Macedonian Issue

International Re-alignments and Balkan Repercussions

from the Greek-Yugoslav Agreements of 18 June 1959

to the 1960 Crisis in Relations between Athens and Belgrade

Abstract: The 1960s were a decade of important developments in the Balkans. Skopje’s stirring up of the issue of the supposed “Macedonian” minority led to a series of diplomatic clashes between Greece and Yugoslavia, culminating in the 1960–1962 crisis. A major role in developments in the Balkans was played by the Soviet Union, which, directly or indirectly, greatly influenced the shaping of Yugoslav foreign policy. The crisis began in August 1960 when, for the first time since 1950, the Yugoslavia Foreign Ministry publicly raised the question of protecting the rights of the “Macedonian minority”. While the Athens-Belgrade crisis was not serious enough to lead them to break off diplomatic relations, it did have a catalytic effect on the shaping of Bulgarian policy with regard to the Macedonian question. After the restoration of democracy in Greece (1974), and despite her need for support from Yugoslavia on the Cyprus issue, the Karamanlis government did not repeat the “mistakes” of 1959. Belgrade, having secured in 1975 a renewal of the agreement on the free zone in the Port of Thessaloniki, did not insist on signing a border agreement. The Macedonian question had become of no more than academic interest in the discussions of politicians on both sides of the border, and the crisis of 1960–62 merely a forgotten flare-up.

Keywords: Balkans, Yugoslavia, Greece, Macedonian issue, 1960s crisis, Bulgaria