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News 24 Oct 13

Breakthrough Unlikely in New Macedonia Name Talks

As the UN mediator summoned both sides to New York for fresh talks on Macedonia's name, few scented a likely breakthrough.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz [middle] | Photo by: Eskinder Debebe

Matthew Nimetz, the UN Secretary General's envoy in the name dispute, will meet Macedonia’s negotiator, Zoran Jolevski, and Greece’s Adamantios Vassilakis separately on Thursday and then at a joint discussion on Friday.

Media in both countries said there was little hope of a breakthrough in the long-standing dispute.

Nimetz visited Athens and Skopje in early September when he met top officials.

After the meetings, he said he heard their positions about his latest compromise name proposal, put forward in April, noting that “substantial differences” remained between both sides.

Nimetz declined to divulge his suggested formula, but reports have indicated that it was “Upper Republic of Macedonia".

The latest UN-sponsored talks will take place ahead of the December European Council meeting when EU enlargement and Macedonia's accession process will again be discussed.

Macedonia obtained EU candidate status back in December 2005, and European Commission reports have recommended a start to membership talks each year since 2009.

The Commission, in this year’s annual report on the country, published this month, gave a green light for the country to start talks for the fifth year in a row.

But the country has never been offered a date for EU accession 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.

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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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