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US Urges Macedonia To Solve Name Dispute

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Just days after the general elections in Macedonia, the US reminds the government in Skopje that it has unfinished business regarding the name dispute with Greece.

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

A quick solution to the name dispute, boosting reforms needed for EU membership as well as further implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord should be top priorities of the new government, said Thomas Countryman, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia at a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

Macedonia
Macedonia

“In terms of next priorities, we absolutely believe that this would be the right time, as soon as the new government is formed, to bring to closure the discussions with Greece over the name of Macedonia,” Countryman said.

“We look forward to that being concluded so that Macedonia can continue on the path to NATO and the European Union,” he added.

“We believe this is within reach and can be done,” Countryman said. The VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which is currently in power, won the elections on Sunday, and are expected to form another government in the coming weeks.

Greece and Macedonia have been locked in a dispute over the name Macedonia for two decades.

Athens refuses to let Skopje join NATO and EU before solving this issue. It insists that Skopje’s use of this name implies territorial claims against Greece’s own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.

In what may be seen as a positive sign, the Macedonian government announced on Tuesday that the Greek PM George Papandreou called his Macedonian counterpart Gruevski to congratulate him on his election victory.

In 2010, Gruevski and Papandreou held a series of meetings aimed at unfreezing the cold bilateral relations and hopefully reaching a solution to the long standing dispute. However, the meetings were assessed only as a courtesy gatherings without significant substance.

Former Macedonian chief of diplomacy, Slobodan Casule says that a name solution is possible in the coming period, but argues that the US would have to step up pressure on both sides if that is to happen.

The US is now “only insisting on what was previously already agreed and that is the name Republic of Macedonia with the adjective Skopje in brackets,” Casule explained, adding that Skopje in 2008 hinted some form of this name might be acceptable.

Casule told Balkan Insight the moment is good for a compromise, “especially now when the Macedonian government has a fresh mandate and stable majority” and “when Greece is knocking at the doors of international monetary organisations asking for financial help to curb its internal crisis”.

Casule also sees as encouraging the fact that Gruevski’s current junior government partner, Ali Ahmeti of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, who is expected to rejoin Gruevski in the new government, promised his supporters during the election campaign that a name solution is just around the corner.

Various opinion polls done in the past year have showed that the country’s Albanians, who make up one quarter of the population, are generally more supportive of agreeing to a name compromise if this means resumption of EU and NATO accession bids.

Ethnic Macedonians, on the other hand, are more resistant to and emotional about a possible name change.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

11 thoughts on “US Urges Macedonia To Solve Name Dispute

  • Avatar
    June 9, 2011 at 5:36 am
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    Macedonia should never negotiate our name or country because it is not negotiable . Northern Greece belongs to Macedonia and the Macedonian people .

    Reply
    • Avatar
      June 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm
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      Chris, Bulgarian speakers of the former Yugoslavia have no connection to Makedonia. You are correct though when you say Makedonia belongs to the Makedones. Unfortunately that does NOT include the residents of Vardar Banovina. History is NOT a buffet table you cant pick and choose what you like. Its the legacy your ancestors leave you. Its NOT our fault you got short changed by comrade tito..

      Reply
  • Avatar
    June 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm
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    It is really a time for all outsiders to realize that this concoction about the name is nothing more and nothing less than Greek ploy to justify the occupation of Macedonian land and to maneuver its way out of recognizing the ethnic Macedonians living in Greece. This little Balkan bully should be taken out by its ears and should be given a lesson in democracy. Hypocrisy is being practiced by all involved who believe that Macedonia should change her name. Stop supporting a failed and corrupt government that employs not democracy but bigoted and deceitful campaign against a sovereign country. Stop supporting this spoiled little brat who lives and behaves beyond its means and responsibilities. You all make me sick with your double talk diplomacy.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      June 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm
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      Wow..another historical breakthrough..first the name Apolodorus lambroideus which obviously must mean something in Bulgarian. and then ethnic Macedonians how many history books do we have to burn to make your fantasy a reality?? How does Greece’s financial woes make a Bulgarian speaker of the former Vardar Banovina a Makedona?? Try reading History instead of making it up like the PHONY STATUES IN SKOPJE.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    June 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm
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    better yet call it ilirida/macediona rep with the macey flag half with the eagle if you want to have a country if not we will talk half anyways regards the real albanians of macediona which that area was never called macediona bulgars empire was there at that time plus alexander mother was ilirian and the real macediona is in greece where do you slav macediona come from? bulgar end of story!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    June 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm
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    As a person who has followed this saga out of intrest for the last few years and taking into account the regions history and multi culture background the solution seems clear.

    Greece and other countries in the world recognized the federation of Yugoslavia as a sovereign and independant state which was comprised of 6 republics all of which with the exception of Macedonia have been welcomed into the world community under there former republic name with out a geographic qualifier.

    Time to move on and focus on your economy Greece.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      June 10, 2011 at 11:42 am
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      George, You omitted the one OBVIOUS fact… NONE OF THE OTHER YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS ENCROACH HISTORICALLY ON A NEIGHBOR COUNTRY. or try to lay claim to foreign territory like FYROM does. It helps to be informed before posting George. As far as Greeces Economy what’s that got to do with FYROM’s name??

      Reply
  • Avatar
    June 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Wee Greeks need to man up and face reality, We have done enough to the Macedonian people, hang the gloves up boys, And do your home work on the Macedonian side, they have a right to be annoyed and angry with our behavior..

    Reply
    • Avatar
      June 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm
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      You’re a prrime example why this farce will drag fyrom down and keep it down.
      There is NOTHING MACEDONIAN about BULGARIAN sPeakers of VARDAR BANOVINA of the former YUGOSLAVIA…

      Reply
  • Avatar
    June 10, 2011 at 11:58 pm
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    Stuff the eu and nato as Macedonia do not need to sell themselves over joining these beurachratic organisations.
    Modern day greece (made up primarily of christian turks and albanians) are heading for complete financial ruin so Nikola Gruevski i suggest you tell modern day greece to go and jump (preferably at the bottom of the ocean….Time and patience is what is required and our sovereign right will then be complete.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    June 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm
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    FYROM’s piece of real estate and residents have always been Slavic nothing to do with Alexanders HELLENISM. History can’t be cherry picked to suit Vardarians.

    Reply

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