Negotiations in the decades long name dispute over “Macedonia” are to start in the next couple of days and both Greece and FYROM seem ready to finally solve the issue – at least they have good intentions setting aside the nationalist hardliners in both countries.
Macedonia and Greece have a real chance to solve a festering quarter-century-old name dispute by July, FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said to Greek Alpha TV on Sunday.
“I believe it’s possible to find a solution by the end of the first half of 2018,” Zaev and stressed among others that his country wants to push forward for accession to the European Union and the NATO. “Our strategic orientation is conclusively (towards) the EU and NATO,” Zaev underlined.
However, he left open the option of a referendum saying any solution has to have the support of citizens and the opposition.
Dissolving the name dispute is a precondition for Greece to lift its embargo towards the accession of FYROM to these two organizations.
A day earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had said the time had come “for decisions (in 2018) to justify Greece’s role as a leading force in the Balkans.”
The quarrel between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991 when the former republic declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece has been denying FYROM the right to use the name “Macedonia” as it is the name of a region in Northern Greece. Furthermore, Athens has been also angry at FYROM’s efforts to appropriate Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror one of the ocuntry’s greatest military heroes.
Zaev said his position is that FYROM “is not the sole heir of Alexander the Great” and added that “red lines will not be the reason to put obstacles on the negotiations.”
Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is a provisional name Greece has to agree with in the early 1990’s.
As the two sides prepare for the meeting with the United Nations Special Representative for the name, Matthew Nimetz, on January 19th, Greek media report that he has already picked three names as options both countries could negotiate on.
Several preparatory meetings are to take place in Athens and Skopje in the next days, Greek nationalists in the north try to organize a protest in Thessaloniki scheduled on January 21st. There are reports of several small groups and movements that have allegedly popped-up in recent days opposing any solution that will include the name “Macedonia” and that they collect signatures against this kind of solution.
According to local media, there is also alleged talk of a new political formation broiling. The rumors claim that conservative New Democracy lawmakers from North Greece would joint the formation which will be similar to Italian “League of the North” and down-vote the ratification of the deal when it comes to the Parliament.