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Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki says the country's existing name, “Republic of Macedonia”, already provides a basis for a settlement of the name dispute with Greece.
Macedonian FM Nikola Poposki
Foreign Minister Poposki told the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique on Thursday that his government considered the country's current name definitive.
“The name we adopted, 'Republic of Macedonia', was confirmed in the referendum on independence [from Yugoslavia] in 1991," he said.
"It dates from 40 years earlier, when Macedonia was one of the republics of the Yugoslav Federation," he added.
"Talking of a Republic of Macedonia allows for a distinction between the country and the geographical region [of Macedonia],” he continued.
Asked whether Greek proposed name like "Northern Macedonia" and "Upper Macedonia" were not also a fair compromise, as they include use of the word "Macedonia", Poposki demurred. Having the word Macedonia included in a name proposal “is not a concession from the Greek side,” he maintained.
Poposki recalled that both countries in 1995 signed a UN deal agreeing to use a provisional term, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM, as a result of which Greece was obliged to lift its blockade on Macedonia’s UN membership.
But since then Greece has blocked Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession, still citing the unresolved name dispute. Athens insists that use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to its own northern region of Macedonia.
The minister said other European countries were not so squeamish about names.
“You Belgians have a province called Luxembourg, but you did not object to the accession of [the state of] Luxembourg to the EU in the 1950s,” the Foreign Minister recalled.
Poposki said the Greek veto on Macedonia’s invitation to join NATO in 2008 at the Alliance's Bucharest summit did not help.
However, he said he was still hopeful that both sides “can arrive at a solution that will not be perceived as an assault on Greece and will be honorable for us and [does not] deny the existence of our country and language”.
During the last few years the UN has brokered bilateral talks aimed at finding a compromise. But neither side accepted the proposed names put forward by the UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
Meanwhile Macedonia has sued Greece before the World Court for breaching the 1995 interim accord by blocking the country's entry to NATO. The court is expected to pronounce next month.
European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia, Richard Howitt has warned that Macedonia should not be overlooked, after the country received a recommendation for EU accession talks for the third year running.
The Hague Tribunal has been successful in bringing wartime commanders to justice but hasn’t met expectations on reconciliation, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told BIRN.