By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia is weighing possible scenarios following the decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in its case against neighbouring Greece.
Macedonia sued Greece in 2008 at the ICJ for blocking its accession to NATO over the countries’ unresolved name dispute. The court is expected to issue a ruling on November 16.
Skopje argues that the NATO blockade violates its rights under the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord that regulated relations between the two states, in which Greece agreed not to block the accession of its neighbour to international organizations.
The Greek side argues that Macedonia was the party that broke the accord by taking a hard line stance over the name issue and by appropriating Greek history by renaming airports, highways and sport arenas after heroes of Greek antiquity.
“If the ruling goes in Macedonia’s favour, meaning, if the court rules that Greece violated the UN accord, Macedonia will try to make political use of this,” a senior official from the Macedonian Foreign Ministry told Balkan Insight.
Sources say that in that case Macedonia may turn to the UN Security Council seeking its protection from further Greek violations of the accord, as well as informing NATO, the EU and the UN mediator [in the name dispute] Matthew Nimetz about the ICJ ruling.
As part of the Interim Accord Macedonia and Greece were obliged to seek a compromise name solution through UN-mediated talks. But the talks have so far failed to make a breakthrough.
If Macedonia loses the case, “a straight withdrawal from the Interim Accord will probably not be an option,” the same source said.
Instead, Macedonia may choose to distance itself from the accord by informing the UN that it will in future “act according to its own interests” because of the Greek breach of the accord that the ICJ had failed to acknowledge.
Some observers say the ICJ will most probably try to reach out a balanced ruling and try in its reasoning to pinpoint ways in both sides with their acts had breached the accord.
In such scenario, the strategy of Macedonia will be to use its diplomacy to promote the parts of the ICJ reasoning that are most favourable, hoping to gain further support for its cause.
Skopje and Athens have been locked in a dispute over use of the name Macedonia for almost two decades. Athens insists that Macedonia’s indicates a territorial claims to the Greek northern province also called Macedonia.
The row escalated in 2008 when Greece blocked NATO from extending a membership invitation to Macedonia over the issue, after which Macedonia decided to sue. The court process started in January 2009.
The ICJ ruling is final and obligatory but the ICJ has no practical means of forcing a country to honor it. This means that if Macedonia wins the case, this will not automatically mean Greecde lifting its blockade on NATO and EU.