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News 27 Jun 17

UN’s Macedonia-Greece Envoy Renews Diplomatic Efforts

The UN special envoy in the Macedonia-Greece 'name' dispute, Matthew Nimetz, will visit Skopje at the end of this week as Macedonia seeks to revive its stalled Euro-Atlantic integration bid.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
UN 'name' dispute mediator Matthew Nimetz on a previous visit to Skopje. Archive photo: MIA.

After a prolonged absence, UN envoy Matthew Nimetz is to visit Macedonia from Sunday to Monday, Macedonia's national broadcaster MRTV reported on Tuesday, citing sources in Washington. 

During Nimetz’s visit, he is set to meet with top Macedonian officials, although it is not yet known whether he will bring any new proposal for a mutually acceptable name for Macedonia to the table.

It is also not yet clear whether after visiting the Macedonian capital, Nimetz will head to Athens.

Nimetz's reported visit will come shortly after the new Macedonian government pledged to work hard on removing all the obstacles to the country’s bids to join NATO and the EU.

Apart from democratic reforms demanded by the EU, the biggest obstacle is the longstanding unresolved name dispute with Greece.

Macedonia got a recommendation to start EU accession talks in 2005 and was almost invited to join NATO back in 2008. However due to its unresolved name dispute with neighbouring Greece, progress has been stalled since then.

Athens insists that the name Republic of Macedonia inherently suggests territorial ambitions beyond its neighbour’s existing borders into the northern Greek province which is also named Macedonia.

Past proposals for some kind of a compound name that would satisfy both sides have so far failed to yield results. 

Nimetz's last official visit to Skopje and Athens took place in July 2014, during which he did not bring any fresh proposal for a solution to the dispute.

The 'name' talks have been effectively frozen since then, partly owing to the deep political crisis which engulfed Macedonia in early 2015 and which ended just recently with the election of a new government.

Nimetz's visit comes shortly after the new Macedonian government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, which was elected in late May, sent Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov to Athens in an attempt to pave the way towards building mutual trust, seen as essential if the two neighbours are to resume 'name' talks.

Dimitrov received a warm welcome in Athens, but his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias reiterated that settlement of the 'name' dispute is crucial if Greece is to support Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

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