AFP reports on the possibilities to resolve the Macedonian name issue


Agence France-Presse reports that the protracted name issue between Macedonia and Greece can be resolved, given the overtures by the newly appointed Macedonian Government, and the apparent positive reaction on the part of Greece. According to AFP, Macedonia is making a push to join NATO under the interim reference name "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", as provided in the 1995 Interim Accord.

"In June, new Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev seemed to relax the line of his nationalist predecessors. 'With a FYROM reference we can become a member of NATO', Zaev said on a visit to the NATO headquarters in Brussels. As a member of both NATO and the European Union, Athens has vetoed Macedonia’s attempts to join both blocs, but a calendar of bilateral meetings is now in place to try to resolve the dispute", AFP writes. A similar request in 2008, at the Bucharest NATO summit, was rejected by Greece.

According to officials in Athens which AFP spoke to, the new comments coming from Macedonia are encouraging, but Greece will have to wait and see what steps come next from Skopje. "In Zaev’s bid to end the row, he has spoken by telephone to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras. The Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov was in Athens in mid-June and his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias is going to Skopje later this month. There is a 'certain mobilisation', a Greek diplomatic source told AFP, noting 'some signs' of good will in Skopje. But the source said it was now necessary to 'wait for action'. A top official in Zaev’s SDSM party, who also asked not to be named, warned that Greece 'could keep the same position for two centuries. We should find a solution to deblock the process of integration with NATO and the EU'. But, in the fragile country of about two million people, the official warned it would be necessary to reach a political 'consensus' and to back up any decision with a referendum", AFP writes, in a report widely shared in French media.

AFP adds that the incumbent Greek Government has not yet made any proposals, and waits for a resumption in negotiations. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due for a visit to Macedonia by the end of August, and United Nations negotiator Matthew Nimetz met with the two sides. The Greek official position is that the word Macedonia can be part of a future solution, but it must be accompanied by a geographic qualifier. 

"Many Macedonians are against a name change but some say they want a way out of the tiring row. 'We are Macedonians, we cannot name ourselves differently', said Mirjana Jovanovska, 47, a dentist in Skopje. She admitted, however, that 'it would not be so terrible if a prefix was added to the name Macedonia'. Suggestions to emerge in conversations include 'Northern Macedonia', 'New Macedonia' or even 'Vardarska' after a river that runs through the country", AFP adds.

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