The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is considering to abandon “Macedonia” name claim in order to join the NATO, Financial Times reported on Monday citing an interview with FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
“The Republic of Macedonia may seek to change its name to appease Greek demands, in order to join Nato,” FT wrote.
Due to the name dispute that erupted the early 1990’s, Greece has been blocking FYROM’s membership to the North Atlantic Alliance.
Athens believes the name “Madeconia” implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province.
“Macedonia’s foreign minister is set to inform NATO officials in Brussels on Monday that it might now change its name,” FT noted.
Skopje’s intention for a great U-turn occurs two days before the official visit of Dimitrov to Athens and was hailed by the Greek media.
The new government of Zoran Zaev in Skopje has recently removed all statues of Alexander the Great, in a move Greeks understood as the end of the era of nationalist approach of Nikola Gruevski.
Dimitrov’s alleged name change announcement was considered as an important step towards the West-orientation of the country. NATO that accepted Montenegro as its member last week, has repeatedly stressed that a membership requires the approval of all other members.
However, just hours after the FT report was making the rounds on internet, FYROM Foreign Ministry intervened and asked FT to change Dimitrov’s quotation. The FT changed the report article into FYROM is considering to “use an interim reference name.”
In the new version of the FT article, changed on request from the Macedonia Foreign Ministry, Dimitrov is quoted as saying that Macedonia considers “using the interim reference name to join NATO.”
The interim reference name is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
“The difference is significant, as Macedonia successfully sued Greece for violating the 1995 Interim Accord, in which Greece renounced its veto right over Macedonia’s membership in NATO, the European Union and other international institutions, provided that Macedonia uses the temporary reference name “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, a FYROM website notes.
To FT, 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 “If we are a good ‘neighbor, then hopefully political forces in Greece will realize this is a historic opportunity.”, the Financial Times writes.
According to FT, 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 FT.
The FYROM move may trigger a dispute between Greece’s coalition government partners left-wing SYRIZA and nationalists Independent Greeks (ANEL). One part of SYRIZA has been saying FYROM may use any name it wants, another part, a more conservative one, has been rejecting any concessions. As for ANEL, their position was always known and remains the same.
So far there has been no official reactions to the issue, neither by the Greek Foreign Ministry, nor by government or opposition lawmakers.
PS I believe that new version of FT article has not reached Greece yet.