A new effort in Macedonia, Greece name dispute talks

27/11/2012

Macedonia-Greece name dispute talks have restarted, but analysts are skeptical that a mutually acceptable solution can be found.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 27/11/12

photo

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz is in Brussels for a new round of Macedonia-Greece name dispute talks this month. [AFP]

As talks resurface on the ongoing name dispute between Macedonia and Greece, analysts said that the two countries need to find a solution in order to foster regional stability and ease Skopje's EU accession talks.

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz offered new proposals for a solution at a joint meeting with Macedonian and Greek ambassadors Zoran Jolevski and Adamantios Vasilakis last week.

"Both sides express their readiness to overcome the dispute, and I think that is not rhetoric. The situation in the region requires a solution to this problem," Nimetz said.

Nimetz's proposals are not available to the public for the time being, but analysts said Macedonia is advised to accept a composite name internationally while the country is holding negotiation talks with the EU.

"It is suggested that Macedonia reach a potential solution by the end of its [future] negotiations for EU membership, prior to its ratification," Slobodan Casule, former foreign minister of Macedonia, told SETimes.

Analysts in both countries said it is good that UN talks have resumed, but added they are not certain of a positive outcome any time soon.

According to Yorgos Sogopoulos, political analyst from ELIMEP International Organisation for foreign Affairs in Athens, there can be progress only if Skopje shows readiness to accept a composite name, under the UN auspices.

"As things stand now, I do not see Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski ready to do that. In any event, we must wait and see Nimetz's new proposals when they reach the public," Sogopoulos told SETimes.

Despite continuous pressure from Brussels to find a solution, the ruling party may not be in a hurry to compromise.

"Local elections in March of next year should not be neglected. Ruling VMRO-DPMNE won six elections in part because of its unwavering stance to defend Macedonia's historical name and identity from foreign claims. Therefore, this is not the time for radical steps, regardless of the pressure from Brussels," Vele Mitanovski, analyst and former Macedonian MP, told SETimes.

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No progress can be expected if the EU does not tie this issue to the financial assistance it offers Greece, said Yorgos Papadakis, political journalist from Athens.

"Progress depends on the intensity of pressure on Greece. The country is in dire straits with financial assistance it receives from the EU to survive several more months. But, I don't think something dramatic will happen to change Greece's position regarding Macedonia by starting the EU accession negotiations," Papadakis told SETimes.

Meanwhile in Macedonia, resistance to the talks is growing.

"Any change or addition to the name Macedonia means a final change, indeed a negation, of the Macedonian people, language and identity. That is why Nimetz's proposals are unacceptable, no matter how they are packaged," Petrov told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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