FYROMacedonia May Consider Name Concessions

FYROMacedonia May Consider Name Concessions

Skopje | 22 October 2009 | Sinisa-Jakov Marusic

FYROMacedonia will try to persuade Greece not to block its EU progress in December by promising concessions in the countries’ name dispute by sometime next year, media reports cite unnamed Skopje officials as saying.

Athens is conditioning its acceptance of Skopje’s EU accession bid on the neighbouring state changing its formal name, Republic of “Macedonia”. The EU Council looks set to discuss Macedonia’s accession bid in December. In order for Skopje to receive a recommended date for the start of its integration talks, all 27 member states would have to vote in favour, including Greece.

“Diplomatic efforts are being made to persuade Greece to refrain from making any moves that would [stop] the EU Council from extending the date,” a Skopje diplomat told local A1 TV.

Diplomatic sources explained that, in exchange, “Macedonia” could promise that it will make alterations to its name before the actual start of the EU talks, sometime in 2010.

This scenario could be acceptable to the authorities in Skopje as it would provide them with enough time to prepare the “Macedonian” public for concessions on this sensitive issue, the A1 TV report noted.

Last year, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO membership over the name spat. Greece argues that “Macedonia’s” name implies that Skopje is making territorial claims on its northern province of Macedonia.

On Wednesday, “Macedonian” Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who heads the ruling VMRO-DPNME party, was not available for comment. But Ermira Mexmeti, the spokesperson for the VMRO-DPNME’s junior coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, said that the moment is “more than favourable for a constructive and pragmatic approach” that “would bring progress before December 1”.

Earlier this month, the European Commission, EC, recommended the start of “Macedonia’s” EU accession talks but left the decision on an actual date to the EU Council. The EC encouraged the country to hammer out a swift name deal with Greece.

Yesterday, “Macedonia’s” main opposition party, the Social Democrats, gave Gruevski carte blanche to negotiate an end to the dispute. The party pledged its support for any compromise that guarantees that the language and nation would remain unchanged and referred to as “Macedonian”.

The two neighbouring state are engaged in UN-sponsored talks on the issue. Local media speculate that a variation on the name Northern Macedonia might prove acceptable to both sides.

“Macedonia’s” Government building

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