Financial Times: Macedonia considers changing its name to join NATO

Newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Nikola Dimitrov told the Financial Times that Macedonia is considering changing its name in order to be allowed to join NATO. Dimitrov is set to travel to Athens for a meeting with his Greek counterpart on Wednesday.

"Macedonia will consider changing its name in an effort to unlock Greek opposition to its Nato membership, the country’s foreign minister has said.

Membership of the alliance would help calm the wider Balkan region after months of political tension that occasionally spilled into bloodshed, Nikola Dimitrov will tell senior Nato officials in Brussels on Monday. Mr Dimitrov said he would meet Greek ministers on Wednesday to restore trust between the two neighbours after Athens vetoed the Balkan republic’s Nato application in 2008. 'I will ask Greece to reconsider what kind of neighbour they want — do they want a stable, friendly country that offers hope for democracy and justice?' he said in an interview. 'If we are a good 'neighbour, then hopefully political forces in Greece will realise this is a historic opportunity.", the Financial Times writes.

According to the paper, Greece sees the new, SDSM led Government in Macedonia, as more cooperative than the VMRO-DPMNE led Government, but still sees no need for a hasty solution to the name issue. "There are grounds now for more optimism and we’re hoping for progress when our foreign ministers meet in Athens next week. This is an issue that has been on the table for more than two decades and it would be rash to make any prediction", a Greek official told the Financial Times. The paper says that any move would meet opposition from the nationalist ANEL party, which is party of the ruling Greek coalition, but also from a lesser known nationalist wing within the main ruling SYRIZA party. While in opposition, the far left SYRIZA said it would allow Macedonia to call itself what it wants, but once it assumed power in 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras changed his position.

Dimitrov told the Financial Times that any agreement on a new name would be put to a referendum in Macedonia, and would be introduced in inter-party consultations. Unnamed commentators told the Financial Times that the process could last for up to a year, and was sparked by the renewed Russian push in the Balkans, including the attempted coup in Montenegro.

"The Balkans is not a very happy place; in many places, people feel there is a chance to change the status of the post-Yugoslav war settlements. By welcoming Macedonia, Nato could have a calming effect on the region", Dimitrov told the Financial Times.



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