By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The president of the court, Judge Hisashi Ovada, said the judges had ruled by 15 votes to one “that the Hellenic Republic, by objecting to the admission of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to NATO, has breached its obligation under Article 11, paragraph 1, of the Interim Accord of 13 September 1995”.
The court found that Greece had failed to prove that in 2008 it had acted “in response” to a previous Macedonian breach of the same accord. (Click here to download the official full document of the ICJ ruling (PDF)
However, the court did not uphold Macedonia’s request and order Greece to restrain from blocking its smaller neighbour from joining International organizations in future.
In November, 2008, Macedonia instituted proceedings against Greece before the World Court for what it described as “a flagrant violation of [Greece’s] obligations under Article 11” of the 1995 UN brokered bilateral Interim Accord that regulates relations between the two countries.
In the UN deal Greece undertook not to block Macedonia’s accession to international organization as long as the country used the provisional UN reference, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM.
During the public hearings in March, Greece insisted that it did not block Macedonia’s NATO membership; it was a joint decision of all countries attending the NATO summit in Romania.
The judgment is final, without appeal and is binding on the parties, though the World Court has no tools to enforce its decisions.
But officials in Skopje believe that a positive ruling for Macedonia will have shifted the terms of the argument in Macedonia’s favour.
The ICJ case was a direct consequence of the longstanding bilateral dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the former’s name.
Greece insists that use of the term “Macedonia” by its neighbour implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.
Macedonia, on the other hand, sees the demand to change its name as insulting and as an attack on the country’s identity.