News 03 Dec 12

ESI Bids to Break Macedonia ‘Name’ Deadlock

Berlin think tank launches upgraded initiative to solve the dispute between Macedonia and Greece so that the former can advance its EU integration.

Darko Duridanski
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: UN/Devra Berkowitz

The lead analyst of the European Stability Initiative, Gerald Knaus, said the solution would foresee a change to Macedonia’s name that would come into force permanently on the day that the country joined the EU.

In a blog post, Knaus upgraded an ESI initiative from 2010, called “Breaking the Macedonian deadlock”, saying a suggestion that incorporated the bottom lines of both Athens and Skopje was needed.

Macedonia and Greece are locked in a two-decade dispute over the use of the name “Macedonia”.

Athens insists that use of the term “Republic of Macedonia” implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Because of Greece’s objections, Macedonia joined the UN in 1993 under the cumbersome formula of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM.

In 2008, Greece blocked the country’s accession to NATO on the grounds of the unresolved name row.

Since 2009, the EU has recommended that Macedonia receive a start date for membership negotiation talks with the EU.

But this offer has also been blocked by Greece, citing the unresolved dispute.

In December the EU Council will again discuss the possibility of offering a date for negotiations with Macedonia.

Knaus said Macedonia should take the first step by adopting constitutional amendments, changing the name of the country and adding a geographical qualifier.

“This would replace the provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia [used in UN and international organizations] and allow Athens to support Macedonia's EU accession talks,” Knaus wrote.

This amendment should be provisional and would come into force only if and when Macedonia joined the EU. The same should apply for Macedonia's NATO bid.

According to the proposal, both sides would seek active mediation to find an agreed compromise name with a geographical modifier.

In parallel to this, Greece would commit itself to supporting Macedonia’s NATO membership.

“From the day that the Republic of Macedonia joins the European Union the international name of the country will be XYZ, used erga omnes in all languages other than the official languages of the country,” Knaus proposes.

“Neither side will lose leverage in future. If future Greek governments block the EU accession … [and] make additional demands judged unacceptable in Skopje, this would also delay the entry into force of the core provision of this compromise,” the Knaus proposal explains.

At the end of the process a referendum on EU accession, which would also be a de facto referendum on the name issue, would be organized.

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