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News 21 Nov 12

UN Mediator Presents New Macedonia ‘Name’ Proposals

The UN mediator in the ‘name’ dispute has put forward several suggestions for a compromise name for Macedonia in talks in New York - but his ideas have not been made public.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Matthew Nimetz | Photo by: UN

After separate and joint meetings with Macedonia’s Zoran Jolevski and Greece’s Adamantios Vassilakis on Monday and Tuesday in New York, Matthew Nimetz said he was willing to come to Skopje and Athens to elaborate his ideas, which have not been released to the public.

“I asked them to take these ideas back to their governments and see if they might be useful for going forward. I volunteered to come to Athens and Skopje to discuss them in more detail or to pursue them through meetings here or elsewhere,” Nimetz said.

The meetings come ahead of the December summit of the European Council at which EU ministers should decide whether to extend a start date for Macedonia's EU membership talks.

In October, Macedonia obtained its fourth recommendation in a row for a start to EU membership talks as part of a generally positive European Commission progress report.

But Europe has not offered a start date for talks owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia. Greece is also blocking Macedonia’s NATO entry citing the same issue.

Nimetz drew a clear separation between his UN-sponsored talks and the idea put forward last month by the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule who urged for opening of Macedonian accession talks prior to reaching a solution to the name dispute.

“The EU process is a completely separate process and it goes by its own momentum,” he said, adding that the timings and the procedures of EU and NATO are “not part of my responsibility”.

Nimetz also said that the December 2011 ruling of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, which stated that Greece broke a UN agreement by blocking Macedonia's membership of NATO in 2008 over the name issue, was “important” but was “not strictly related to the solution of the name issue here”.

Negotiators from both counties, who accompanied Nimetz at the press conference, deemed the talks constructive and pledged to continue talks under UN auspices.

“I did find both sides very, very willing to listen to the other one, and listen to me, and both sides are at this stage open minded as to possible solutions because they really want a solution,” Nimetz noted.

The last time officials from Greece and Macedonia met head to head was in September in New York where Foreign Ministers Dimitris Avramopoulos and Nikola Poposki exchanged pleasantries but held no substantive talks on the dispute.

Following their meeting, both countries mulled the idea of signing a bilateral memorandum of understanding that would pave the way towards a name solution but they failed to be more concrete about it.

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