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News 04 Nov 13

Ex-Mediator Says Macedonia ‘Name’ Talks Failed

It is time to admit that the long-running UN-led Greece-Macedonia 'name' negotiations have been a complete failure, said a former mediator in the dispute.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

UN building in New York | Photo by: Steve Cadman

Veteran British diplomat Robin O’Neil, who was the first mediator in the negotiations aimed at resolving the dispute between Athens and Skopje over Macedonia's name, said that after two decades of UN-sponsored talks it was time to admit that they had failed, and accused Greece of insincerity.

“It’s due time for the Macedonian government to tell the world that after 20 years the mediation process is complete failure and to address the UN with a request for admission under its constitutional name,” O’Neil was quoted as telling TV Sonce on Monday.

According to TV Sonce, O’Neil criticised Greece for negotiating with bad intentions and without any desire to come to an agreement with its neighbour Macedonia.

Despite repeated recommendations by the European Commission for a start of EU accession talks with Macedonia, the country never has been offered a date to begin the talks, nor an invitation to join NATO, owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over its name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Last week, media cited unnamed diplomats close to the UN talks as saying that at the latest round of talks in New York, the Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis suggested 'Slavo-Albanian Macedonia' as a compromise name for Macedonia.

There was no official response from the Greek side regarding the claim that caused jitters in Macedonian media.

However, Greek newspaper Khatimerini cited Greek government sources who confirmed Vassilakis’s remark but insisted that he had been misinterpreted and that he only said  'Slavo-Albanian Macedonia' to describe the complexity of the problem.

On Sunday, a US analyst and former envoy to the Balkans, Daniel Serwer, also criticised Greece for putting forward 'Slavo-Albanian Macedonia' as a possible solution.

“Greeks know that Macedonians don’t like to be characterised as Slavs, even though their language is a Slavic one. It’s a bit like the term 'redskins'- offensive, despite the veneer of descriptiveness,” Serwer said.

The latest UN effort for finding a solution to the dispute came last month,  ahead of a European Council meeting in December, when EU enlargement and Macedonia's accession process will again be discussed.

However, few expect a breakthrough by then, including the current UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz who said that “substantial differences” remain between the two sides.

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Background

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Macedonia-Greece Name Dispute: What’s in a name?

Ever since Macedonia gained independence in 1991, its name has been the subject of a bitter dispute with southern neighbor, Greece.

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Matthew Nimetz: The Patient Man Behind the 'Thankless' Talks

The longstanding mediator between Athens and Skopje, Matthew Nimetz, rarely reveals his feelings – but admits regret that the name ‘New Macedonia’ didn’t stick.

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