|The statue oddly reminiscent of Alexander the Great in Skopje has reignited debate with Greece over the Macedonian name|
By Miki Trajkovski
April 19 2013
Due to the 22-year-old name dispute with Greece, Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic accession dreams remain stagnant, and now, analysts said, it is time for the UN to step in and solve the situation.
“After the breakup of Yugoslavia, we got the status of a sovereign country, approved by the international community, to become a member of the UN. We then entered the arena of world politics. But the unsolved issue about the name with Greece is the main reason that, even after 20 years, we couldn’t fulfill our main goals [of] membership in NATO and EU,” Former Macedonian Foreign Affairs Minister Denko Malevski told SETimes.
A large section of northern Greece is called Macedonia, and is home to nearly 3 million people. To the north of that region, the Republic of Macedonia, smaller than Greece’s district and with a million fewer residents, said its claim to the name “Macedonia” is just as strong as the Greeks’.
Because of the name dispute with Greece, Macedonia was admitted to the UN on April 8th 1993 under the temporary name “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Since, 167 members of the UN have recognised the country under its constitutional name of Republic of Macedonia.
Former Macedonian diplomat Risto Nikovski told SETimes that the UN needs to resolve the problem with Greece because regional security depends on it.
“This country was [withheld] from its constitutional name … [which] completely disrupted the natural course and development of the country. The roots of what is happening in Macedonia today are found in the way that Macedonia was admitted in to the UN. The country is left all by itself with severe disabilities, to fight for its future,” Nikovski said.
Under the auspices of the UN, Macedonia and Greece have held negotiations to find a solution to the name issue since 1991. There have not been any results.
In what is the latest in a string of proposed solutions, UN mediator Matthew Nimitz proposed last week that the country be known as “the Upper Republic of Macedonia.”
According to Belgrade-based B92, Greece has reportedly given its consent to Macedonia to join NATO and start negotiations for EU accession under the proposed name.
In return, Macedonia would be required to enter an amendment into its constitution that says that the Upper Republic of Macedonia will be the international name of the country, B92 reported.
The two countries are expected to react to the proposal in the coming days, and reach an agreement by mid-May.
“Macedonia could act in two ways: either to accept the resolution of the UN security council through which it will request a compromised solution with Greece, or to try to cancel or invalidate that resolution and to request a new admission under its constitutional name, a very difficult mission to be accomplished,” Malevski said.
Macedonia applied for NATO membership in 2005 and believed that it would be accepted in 2008, but Greece blocked a formal invitation. In 2009, Greece blocked EU accession talks with its neighbour over the same issue.
Since that disappointment, Macedonia has made efforts to prove to NATO’s 28 members that it deserves an invitation.
The country has built up its security system including its army, Marjan Gjurovski, a former spokesman at the ministry of defence, told SETimes.
Wolfgang Richter, assistant chief of staff for the Civil Military Co-operation Joint Command of Allied Forces NATO in Naples, Italy, expressed the alliance’s appreciation for the progress achieved so far in defence reform.
“You have done everything that was possible, and … I am firmly convinced that if there was not external political dispute with your constitutional name, you already would have been a member of NATO,” Richter said at a meeting with Macedonia Defence Minister Talat Xhaferi and Army Chief of Staff Major General Goranco Kotesk earlier this month.