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Greece is ready for bold decisions on the name of the Republic of Macedonia

12 October 2015 / 18:10:50  GRReporter
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This happened within the context of the plans drawn up by Minister for Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias in June, which he failed to realize because of the elections. Moreover, initiatives were not limited to the adoption of confidence building measures but also provided for a discussion of new ideas about the name issue of Macedonia.

The meetings that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Minister for Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias had in New York returned the two politicians to the harsh reality, as the name issue of the neighbouring country was back on the agenda again. This time, however, the refugee problem and the risk of destabilization of the Republic of Macedonia are creating conditions for exerting pressure on both capitals to find a solution.

The fact that after some time the Americans are again insisting on the need to resolve the name issue reveals the problems arising from the protracted dispute.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s anticipated tour in the region and his visit to Athens in November will be accompanied by renewed pressure to resolve the naming dispute.

NATO summit

Both Americans and Europeans would like to have a solution over the next few months, so that the Republic of Macedonia officially joined the Alliance in the summer, during the NATO summit in Warsaw (8-9 July).

In any case, the Greek side argued during the meetings with foreign representatives that the cause of the internal crisis in Macedonia and the risk of destabilization was not the naming dispute but the violation of the rule of law and democratic principles by the regime of Nikola Gruevski. It was also noted that the country’s path to the Euro-Atlantic integration could be open, the key to this being not in the hands of Greece but of Gruevski himself.

The Macedonian Prime Minister, however, who, under pressure from the international community, has agreed to hold early elections in early 2016, thinks to bet again on the ethnic card that however divides the population (Albanians and Macedonians) even more.

During his speech before the UN General Assembly, instead of showing a tendency to compromise, Gruevski preferred to send a message of intransigence and to close the doors to reaching an agreement with Greece, saying,

"Our position is known, i.e. that we are Macedonians, speak the Macedonian language and live in a country called the Republic of Macedonia, according to the Constitution. International law must be respected by everyone and in every situation, not selectively."

Gruevski did not hide the fact that he expected the confidence building measures that were agreed by both sides be implemented in the near future, since, as he said, "a favourable climate would be created to overcome the differences on the name issue".

Athens believes it can benefit from these agreed measures, some of which will facilitate trade relations, tourism, and general communication between the two countries. Some of the confidence building measures that will be implemented in the immediate future refer to the rail connection between the two countries and the cooperation between the customs and border police. For Athens it is important that all these arrangements begin to be implemented, using the temporary name of FYROM.

Traps

Naturally, there are traps in the process. International mediator Matthew Nimetz has explored the possibilities of the Republic of Macedonia joining NATO under that temporary name, in the presence of a commitment to resolving the name issue before the country joins the European Union. Another version of this idea considers the option for the country to join NATO under a new composite name, which, however, will be recognized by all and will be adopted in the Constitution after the country's accession to the European Union.

Simultaneously with the implementation of the confidence building measures, Athens is willing to consider some similar options.

In the near future, however, Minister Kotzias will have to act very carefully, as the alliance with the Albanians in Macedonia, which was expected to lead to pressure on Nikola Gruevski with regard to the name issue, have not given fruit. For its part, Tirana has not properly assessed the opening of the Greek Foreign Minister to Kosovo either.

After its attempt in New York the Greek government already knows that the naming dispute of the Republic of Macedonia and the non-recognition of Kosovo are considerably limiting the country's ability to pursue a significant policy in the Balkans. Moreover, the companies that are Greece’s cutting edge in terms of its entry in the Balkans either have limited their activity in the country or have reservations towards the new Greek government.

Tags: Republic of MacedoniaGreeceDisputeNameNikos KotziasForeign Minister
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