Greece vs the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at the ICJ

 

Tymphaios
 
January 20, 2010
 
On the 18th of January Greece submitted its evidence in relation to the lawsuit brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The lawsuit was brought before the ICJ following what FYROM claims to be a veto of Greece stopping its entry into NATO in 2008. According to the New York Agreement of 1995, ´Any difference or dispute that arises between the Parties concerning the interpretation or implementation of this Interim Accord may be submitted by either of them to the International Court of Justice, except for the differences referred to in Article 5, paragraph 1.” FYROM has decided to exercise the right with regard to being denied entry to NATO in 2008. The NATO communiqué following the negotiations however did not mention a veto by Greece in the failure of starting accession negotiations.

“… Within the framework of the UN, many actors have worked hard to resolve the name issue, but the Alliance has noted with regret that these talks have not produced a successful outcome. Therefore we agreed that an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. We encourage the negotiations to be resumed without delay and expect them to be concluded as soon as possible”.

Strictly speaking, it appears that Greece did not exercise a veto. Rather the decision was as in the EU discussions last year, a common decision. This is the main issue the ICJ experts will have to deal with. Specifically, Article 11, paragraph 1 of the 1995 New York Accord states: “Upon entry into force of this Interim Accord, The Party of the First Part [Greece] agrees not to object to the application by or the membership of the Party of the Second Part [FYROM] in international, multilateral and regional organizations and institutions of which the Party of the First Part is a member; however, the Party of the First Part reserves the right to object to any membership referred to above if and to the extent of the Party of the Second Part is to be referred to in such organization or institution differently than in paragraph 2 of the United Nations Security Council resolution 817 (1993)”.

Why did FYROM bring in the lawsuit? Under the two UN Security Council Resolutions of 1993 (Resolution 817 and Resolution 845) the two countries were being urged to arrive at a speedy settlement of the remaining issues between them, including the official name of FYROM. The second UN Resolution also requested the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the progress of these further efforts, the objective of which was to resolve the difference between the two parties before the commencement of the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly, that same year (1993). Not only had there not been a proposal by the FYROM government of an official name within that time-frame, indeed there has not been a single proposal in the 17 years since. When FYROM was refused entry to NATO, thirteen years had passed since the New York Accord, while no proposals had been submitted. Unfortunately, the New York Accord had a failing in that it did not place the discussions into some definite timeframe or even a provisional timeframe. Nevertheless, discussions have an objective and at least ought to discuss the subject of the official name of which none has been proposed by FYROM. FYROM had agreed to continue negotiations, but throughout these negotiations FYROM had made no name proposals. Of course negotiations are there for a reason and indeed in 1993, a proposal had been expected within the year, which gives one an idea about the kind of timeframe one ought to be thinking of: months rather than years and certainly not 13 or 15 or 17 years. The proposal expected would be of the official name of the country, about which those in government at least ought to have some idea.

FYROM clearly was in no hurry. Finally, FYROM perceived a golden opportunity to unsettle these so-called discussions further in 2008, by bringing in a lawsuit for these reasons: 1. The negotiations had stalled, or never really gotten off the ground and this was a good opportunity to delay things further, as FYROM would now claim the various parties would have to await decision of the ICJ proceedings before recommencing negotiations. 2. The said proceedings are expected to last 5 years, so the VMRO government of FYROM saw an opportunity to further entrench its position and political line at home and abroad for another 5 years while relatively free of Interim Accord obligations to have any discussions. 3. In the most favourable scenario for FYROM, FYROM may succeed to prove that it was Greece that barred entry of FYROM to NATO and thus embarrass Greece. FYROM would then triumph over someone (Greece) in some sort of tit for tat revenge for its failure to join NATO. The reality would be that should this decision be reached, should Greece be found guilty of blocking FYROM entry to NATO, the New York Accord could be pronounced dead, with Greece having violated it.

What would be the repercussions of this? First, as far as FYROM´s position in the United Nations, it would be freed of the obligations of the New York Accord to discuss the official name of the country. However, the New York Accord and the Security Council Resolutions on which it was enshrined regulated other aspects of FYROM relations with Greece, including several obligations that Greece was fulfilling. Greece had formed strong commercial relations and is currently the top investor in FYROM, going many steps beyond its calling as set out in the Accord. Greece had been supporting the entry of FYROM in a number of international organizations: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank, the international Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), UEFA, FIFA, FIBA, Eurovision, etc. Greece might now begin to oppose FYROM membership, especially to NATO and the European Union, where unanimity is normally required.

Additionally, the accession of FYROM to the United Nations was based on certain conditions as expressed in these Resolutions and the New York Accord. Its devaluation could affect the status of FYROM in the United Nations. The new situation would invite further Resolutions and a new agreement between the two parties under different terms. It is unlikely this is a desirable course to follow for anybody, even for FYROM.

Will the Security Council change its view on a settlement between Greece and FYROM, if the ICJ finds Greece in violation of the Accord? FYROM is one of the worst performing European countries which together with some other former Yugoslav Republics share a low index of democracy. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2008, Greece sits at position 22, close to France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as a full democracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index). The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) sits at position 72, under Flawed Democracies. It is in the general vicinity of the other former Yugoslav republics and Albania, all caught up in the nationalist struggles that caused the break-up of Yugoslavia. It is highly unlikely the Security Council will support a state that had recently lapsed into civil war and betray one of the original UN members Greece, which so far has a good record and a strong pacifist movement. To this one may add the low indices for FYROM in the Freedom House categories of Freedom of Press, Civil Liberties and Political Rights. Taken together, FYROM will have a hard time convincing the United Nations, European Union and NATO that it is not dragging its feet over its reluctance to cast behind its irredentist and nationalistic attitudes no matter what the ICJ decides.

FYROM could argue that bilateral discussions should not be a precondition for accession to the UN, EU and NATO. Be it as it may, in the light of its current record in the Freedom House and Economist Intelligence Unit indices and its bringing in a lawsuit against Greece who is a member of these organizations, even with the precondition of a mutual agreement with Greece over the name dumped, entry is not going to be easier. FYROM may even find itself marginalized more, should investment and the token promise of support from Greece disappear.

Indeed there is a major reason NATO is cautious against FYROM beyond the aforementioned considerations of internal instability and the Yugoslav past. Even though FYROM in principle agreed to remove, as per New York Accord, offending clauses from its constitution and to reassure Greece that it harbours no expansionistic designs against Greece, it is no secret anymore that since about 2001, FYROM schoolbooks introduced ideas of a Greater FYROM (http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/103639 and http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/106292). They contain claims that Greece is occupying lands that are Macedonian – and therefore belong to FYROM. Coupled with old communist ideas of internationalism now turned about 180 degrees into racial superiority (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ITEdiSBl3Y” />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ITEdiSBl3Y” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″>) and empty nationalism (http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=RLCj7Luu5Ko) condemned by the world´s academia (http://macedonia-evidence.org/) and directed against a NATO ally, such claims cannot be what NATO countries would want to hear from a prospective applicant.

Contrary to the current FYROM attitude, Greek governments resisted following legal routes probably in the hope that a moderate FYROM government would be eventually prepared to enter into sincere discussions. This in some FYROM circles was interpreted in various ways, as a mistake by Greece, as lack of will or as an oversight: Greece failed to bring in a lawsuit when it had the chance. Thus FYROM bringing in a lawsuit after the NATO rejection in April 2008 seems to have been the self-fulfilled prophecy of a policy of provocation aiming to disrupt the name negotiations.

Through the lawsuit, FYROM may be hoping to portray Greece in the same way that Georgia tried to portray Russia as a bully in the 2008 Ossetian war. Naively FYROM is failing to see that the Georgia ploy did not work. Moreover, Greece has not expressed any kind of territorial aspirations, it is very much the other way around. Finally, Greece, unlike Russia, is in fact a member of the NATO alliance, which through this lawsuit FYROM is apparently attempting to convince it is worthy of joining.

What do then the NATO members think of this situation? France, Spain and several other NATO countries in fact opposed FYROM entry even before the lawsuit came into the equation. US House of Representatives has passed several Resolutions starting on 2004, the latest being from June 2009, condemning the irredentist policies of FYROM. One such Resolution from 2008 (Senate Resolution 300), was tabled by Mr. Menendez for himself, Ms.Snowe and Mr.Obama (http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/84034). The Representatives have repeatedly stated that these actions of FYROM are in violation of the New York Accord, though neither the USA nor Greece opted for a lawsuit to avoid undermining the UN negotiations. For example in Resolution 356 of 2005, 101 Members of the House of Representatives expressed the view that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should stop the utilization of materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between the FYROM and Greece regarding “hostile activities or propaganda” and should work with the United Nations and Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals of finding a mutually-acceptable official name for the FYROM. The Resolutions urge FYROM to retract its attempts to falsify history and claim Greece’s heritage as its own. Examples of provocative actions mentioned in the Resolutions include the renaming of FYROM’s main airport to “Alexander the Great”, creating maps for school and military textbooks showing a “Greater FYROM” that reaches well into Greece and Bulgaria and teaching school children that parts of Greece, including the Greek region of Macedonia, are rightfully part of the FYROM. The text of the resolution is appended. Also appended is the text of the latest Resolution of the Senate of the USA, H.Res. 356 from the 4th of June 2009, tabled after the decision not to open NATO accession proceedings for FYROM. Clearly the NATO partners had considerable reservations of their own related to the issue at hand. One other potential outcome of the ICJ decision, given the undue delay of a name proposal by FYROM, would be to set a precedent, not a legal one but perhaps in a moral sense, as to whether the identities of historical ethnicities or nationalities can or cannot become indefinitely “adopted” by other historically or geographically unrelated ethnicities and nationalities. It could serve as a justification in using similar tactics in future latent territorial claims by states. It is also possible that the effect this court case will have on the name dispute may influence future disputes of the boundaries of self-determination of nations.

Greece´s options are several, two will be considered next. Greece could prove its adherence to the New York Accord. So far Greece has not had the need to exercise its veto. This would be the most straightforward result for the future of the negotiations. Greece would subsequently be inclined not to file a counter lawsuit accusing FYROM for breaking the Accord first.

Alternatively, Greece could plead guilty or be found guilty. In that case, the Accord would run the risk of becoming invalid. Although that would be a moral victory for FYROM, it could hurt FYROM by bringing the situation back to what it was in 1992 (economic embargo from Greece). It appears, however, from a preliminary report in today’s Kathimerini newspaper, that the Greek submission today aimed to refute the claims of FYROM on alleged violation of the New York Accord (Interim Agreement) of 1995.

Whatever happens, it is clear that the ICJ lawsuit is destined to delay even further the resolution of an issue the UN Security Council believed in 1993 that it should have been resolved that year. Protraction of the debate entrenches in the minds of common people in FYROM the Macedonist ideology as some kind of national cause, surreal as it may seem in the light of the antiquisation campaign, history revisionism and racial mythologies that are being generated. What that is going to do in the long term for stability in the Balkans cannot be a good thing.

APPENDIX

US Gongress urges the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to stop hostile propaganda and find a mutually acceptable solution with Greece on the name issue (11/23/07)

H.Res. 356 (2005)

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should stop the utilization of materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between the FYROM and Greece regarding “hostile activities or propaganda” and should work with the United Nations and Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals of finding a mutually-acceptable official name for the FYROM.

Whereas on April 8, 1993, the United Nations General Assembly admitted as a member the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), under the name the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”;

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 817 (1993) states that the dispute over the name must be resolved to maintain peaceful relations between Greece and the FYROM;

Whereas on September 13, 1995, Greece and the FYROM signed a United Nations-brokered Interim Accord that, among other things, commits them to not “support claims to any part of the territory of the other party or claims for a change of their existing frontiers”;

Whereas a pre-eminent goal of the United Nations Interim Accord was to stop the FYROM from utilizing, since its admittance to the United Nations in 1993, what the Accord calls, “propaganda”, including in school textbooks;

Whereas a television report in recent years showed students in a state-run school in the FYROM still being taught that parts of Greece, including Greek Macedonia, are rightfully part of the FYROM;

Whereas some textbooks, including the Military Academy textbook published in 2004 by the Military Academy “General Mihailo Apostolski” in the FYROM capital city, contain maps showing that a “Greater Macedonia” extends many miles south into Greece to Mount Olympus and miles east to Mount Pirin in Bulgaria;

Whereas in direct contradiction of the spirit of the United Nations Interim Accord’s section “A”, entitled “Friendly Relations and Confidence Building Measures”, which attempts to eliminate challenges regarding “historic and cultural patrimony”, the Government of FYROM recently renamed the capital city’s international airport “Alexander the Great”;

Whereas the aforementioned acts constitute a breach of the FYROM’s international obligations deriving from the spirit of the United Nations Interim Accord, which provides that FYROM should abstain from any form of “propaganda” against Greece’s historical or cultural heritage;

Whereas such acts are not compatible with the Article 10 of the United Nations Interim Accord regarding “improving understanding and good neighbourly relations”, as well as with European standards and values endorsed by European Union member-states; and

Whereas this information, like that exposed in the media report and elsewhere, being used contrary to the United Nations Interim Accord instills hostility and a rationale for irredentism in portions of the population of the FYROM toward Greece and the history of Greece:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) urges the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to observe its obligations under Article 7 of the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord which directs the parties to “promptly take effective measures to prohibit hostile activities or propaganda by state-controlled agencies and to discourage acts by private entities likely to incite violence, hatred or hostility” and review the contents of textbooks, maps, and teaching aids to ensure that such tools are stating accurate information; and (2) urges the FYROM to work within the framework of the United Nations process with Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals by reaching a mutually-acceptable official name for the FYROM.

Expressing the sense of the Senate that the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should work within the framework of the United Nations process with Greece to achieve… (Introduced in Senate)

SRES 169 IS

111th CONGRESS (2009)

1st Session

S. RES. 169

Expressing the sense of the Senate that the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should work within the framework of the United Nations process with Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals of finding a mutually acceptable composite name, with a geographical qualifier and for all international uses for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

June 4, 2009

Mr. MENENDEZ (for himself, Ms. SNOWE, Mrs. SHAHEEN, and Ms. MIKULSKI) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of the Senate that the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should work within the framework of the United Nations process with Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals of finding a mutually acceptable composite name, with a geographical qualifier and for all international uses for the former Yugoslav

Republic of Macedonia.

Whereas, on April 8, 1993, the United Nations General Assembly admitted as a member the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, under the name the `former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia';

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 817 (1993) states that the international dispute over the name must be resolved to maintain peaceful relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and regional stability;

Whereas Greece is a strategic partner and ally of the United States in bringing political stability and economic development to the Balkan region, having invested over $20,000,000,000 in the countries of the region, thereby creating over 200,000 new jobs, and having contributed over $750,000,000

in development aid for the region;

Whereas Greece has invested over $1,000,000,000 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, thereby creating more than 10,000 new jobs and having contributed $110,000,000 in development aid;

Whereas Senate Resolution 300, introduced in the 110th Congress, urged the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to abstain from hostile activities and stop the utilization of materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece regarding `hostile activities or propaganda';

Whereas NATO’s Heads of State and Government unanimously agreed in Bucharest on April 3, 2008, that `. . . within the framework of the U.N., many actors have worked hard to resolve the name issue, but the Alliance has noted with regret that these talks have not produced a successful outcome. Therefore we agreed that an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will

be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. We encourage the negotiations to be resumed without delay and expect them to be concluded as soon as possible';

Whereas the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Strasbourg/Kehl on April 4, 2009, reiterated their unanimous support for the agreement at the Bucharest Summit `to extend an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached within the framework of

the U.N., and urge intensified efforts towards that goal.'; and

Whereas authorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia urged their citizens to boycott Greek investments in the country and not to travel to Greece: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) urges the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to work within the framework of the United Nations process with Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals by finding a mutually acceptable composite name, with a geographical qualifier and for all international uses for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and

(2) urges the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to abstain from hostile activities and stop violating provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece regarding `hostile activities or propaganda’
 
http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/137307

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