By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
A majority of Macedonian citizens would support a compromise solution to the long-standing ‘name’ dispute with Greece, if that aids the country’s Euro-Atlantic prospects, a survey has shown.
Some 61 per cent of Macedonians support a solution to the dispute with Greece over their country’s name, if it speeds up Macedonia’s entry into NATO and the EU, a survey by the Skopje-based Institute for Democracy – Societas Civilis, a think tank, shows.
The survey showed that 33 per cent of respondents were categorically against making any compromises with Greece over Macedonia’s name, while 4 per cent said they were somewhat against a name change.
The opinion poll shows that the dominant ethnic Macedonians are less inclined towards a solution than members of the large ethnic Albanian minority.
However, even among ethnic Macedonians, who have stronger emotional ties to the country’s name, 50 per cent would either completely or somewhat support a solution to the decades-old dispute with the neighbouring country.
But 42 per cent of ethnic Macedonians said they were categorically against a “name” deal.
Ethnic Albanians, who make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s population of just over 2 million, are much keener on a solution. Some 82 per cent of them backed a solution to the dispute, while just 1 per cent were against.
The opinion poll also showed the political affiliations of the respondents.
Some 60 per cent of those who said they had voted for the opposition right-wing VMRO DPMNE party opted against a deal, while 33 per cent of this party’s supporters backed a compromise.
On the other hand, 76 per cent of the people who said they had supported the ruling Social Democrats said they would also support a deal with Greece, while 18 per cent were against.
Of the total number of respondents, 34 per cent think that if Macedonia changes its name to satisfy Greece, it could lead to a complete change of their Macedonian identity as well.
Another 19 per cent said they think that their identity will be changed – but only to a certain extent.
Fears about identity loss are most pronounced among ethnic Macedonians, 60 per cent of whom think that a name change would jeopardize their identity, while 35 per cent think otherwise.
The opinion poll was carried out between January 19-26 via phone by the M Prospect agency on a representative sample of 1,000 respondents.
The survey comes as Macedonia and Greece engage in intensive reinvigorated UN-sponsored talks that, if successful, should result in Greece lifting its blockade on Macedonia’s entry to NATO and to the start of EU accession talks.
The dispute centres on Greece’s insistence that use of the word Macedonia implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.
Athens insists that a new name must be found that makes a clear distinction between the Greek province and the country.
As a result of the unresolved dispute, in 2008, Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO membership It has also blocked the start of Macedonia’s EU accession talks, despite several positive annual reports from the European Commission on the country’s progress.