Macedonia welcomes Canadian recognition of constitutional name

21/09/2007

Canada's decision to use Macedonia's constitutional name in bilateral dealings with the Balkan nation was welcomed by Skopje on Thursday, but not by Greece, which objects to its neighbour being called anything but the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

(AFP, AP, Reuters, DPA, Bloomberg, The Canadian Press, MIA, Makfax, MRT, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Xinhua, Dnevnik.bg - 20/09/07)

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Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected to speak with her Canadian counterpart and convey the Greek government's displeasure. [Getty Images]

Macedonian officials welcomed on Thursday (September 20th) Canada's decision to recognise their country under its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, while Greek authorities vowed to protest the move.

Macedonia's name is the most contentious issue in relations between Skopje and Athens. Greece insists that its neighbour must only be referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the name under which it was admitted to the UN in 1993.

Although international organisations, including the EU and NATO, follow that principle, 117 countries in the world recognise the Balkan nation by its constitutional name. Bulgaria, the first country to recognise Macedonia as an independent state, all former Yugoslav republics, as well as UN Security Council permanent members China, Russia and the United States are among them.

Canada decided to join the group Wednesday. It will use Macedonia's constitutional name in bilateral relations with the country, but will, reportedly, continue to refer to it as FYROM in international communication.

"We have been informed by our embassy that Canada has recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name," Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said in remarks on Macedonian state radio Thursday. "This is excellent news for us and we welcome this move."

Greeks, however, disagreed. "We are not happy with this decision," Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. "It is only natural that the hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in Canada will also be displeased with this decision." According to a Reuters report, the reaction among some members of the Greek diaspora in Canada suggested Koumoutsakos was right.

"The Greeks [in Canada] are seeing red," and are planning to protest the move, Reuters quoted Jim Karygiannis, a member of parliament of Greek origin, as saying.

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Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected to bring up the issue during her talks Sunday with Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator for the Macedonia name issue, during her visit to New York for a UN-sponsored event on climate change.

Greece, which has a province in the north called Macedonia, voiced objections to its neighbour using that word in its name shortly after it declared independence in late 1991, fearing possible territorial claims.

In 1995, the two countries signed an Interim Accord, pledging to continue efforts to resolve the issue, which allowed Macedonia to join a number of international organisations outside the UN, such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, as FYROM. Macedonia is currently an official EU candidate, a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme and hopes to be invited to join the Alliance next year.

During the campaign ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis suggested that Athens would block Skopje's entry into both the EU and NATO until the name issue is resolved.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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