How are the Greeks treated in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Medical tourismMacedonian crowns for Greek patients

Jason Sisnanidis sat down on one of the dentist's chairs. In the brand new practice there are three more of these treatment chairs - all occupied by Greeks with dental problems.

About 90 percent of her patients come from the neighboring country, says Anna Guguschowska. The Macedonian doctor who treats Sisnanidis.

The dental clinic even has its own minibus. He brings patients here from Thessaloniki, Greece, every day. To the "Endomak Dental Clinic" in the Macedonian border town of Gevgelija.

The young doctor calls up the X-rays from Sisnanidis. They don't look good. A tooth stump needs to be pulled. And then: a bridge for 390 euros or the more expensive implant for 500 euros?

Sisnanidis: "What does it cost?"
Doctor: "One 500 euros, the other 390 euros. That depends on which model you want. The one for 500 euros is the latest."

Sisnanidis is not yet so sure:

"It's a lot cheaper than in Greece. And you know about the economic crisis there. Well, you come here because it's only half as expensive as in Greece."

Next door, Riste Panajotu is removing tartar from a Greek. Business is going very well, says the doctor.

There used to be two people, now eight dentists work here, plus dental technicians, office assistants and office workers. And the clinic is by no means the only one in Gevgelija.

Riste Panajotu: "You just have to walk down the street and you will see 15 dental clinics - and there are sure to be more."

Politics is not an issue in the dentist's chair

Dentist Riste Panajotu is reluctant to mention that Greece and Macedonia are politically quite divided.

"It's an unwritten rule. Neither the patients nor we mention politics. We just have this doctor-patient relationship. We only discuss medical problems."

The two countries have been arguing since Macedonia's independence in 1991, because: The Greeks do not want to call Macedonia Macedonia at all.

Fyrom - the Greek patient calls his neighboring country: An abbreviation for "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

Because Macedonia is a region in Greece for him. Dentist Panajotu remains diplomatic.

"I have my own theory about this: Just as I feel offended when you say I'm from Skopja or Fyrom, you are also offended when I say I'm Macedonian, but not you."

As strange as this argument may be to outsiders. It has serious political consequences for the small Balkan country: Greece vetoed Macedonia's membership in NATO. The name dispute is also a permanent problem in the accession negotiations to the European Union.

Doctor Guguschowska has now pulled the tooth of her Greek patient. While she is waiting for her next patient, she tells her colleague about vacation - in Greece.

"It's close, it's beautiful. Most Macedonians go on vacation to Greece. 50 percent, maybe more."

The two countries are otherwise closely linked economically - regardless of the name dispute. As a landlocked country, Macedonia is dependent on the port of Thessaloniki. And Greek companies are investing in Macedonia. No wonder: Macedonia has an unbeatably low tax rate: companies only have to pay ten percent corporate tax. Guguschowska:

"There is a constant exchange. The name dispute is a problem, but actually not a big issue. First of all, for me it is more important that the people in both countries have a good, normal life. And then a solution can be found on a political level. "

Sisnanidi's treatment is complete. Most of the other patients are also finished, are now sitting in the waiting room with green face masks - and are waiting for their return transport to Thessaloniki. Tomorrow the next batch of patients will arrive - to Macedonia, Skopia or Fyrom.