By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia hopes that at the forthcoming May summit in Chicago NATO will shift its position on the country’s stalled membership.
“Anything but a repetition of the 2008 conclusions from the Bucharest NATO summit would be welcome,” a senior Macedonian Foreign Ministry official told Balkan Insight.
Following a Greek blockade of NATO membership over Macedonia’s name, NATO in Bucharest said that Macedonia could only join the alliance once it had solved the name dispute with Greece.
Macedonia is weighing three possible scenarios “that could be favourable for us” the same official said.
The first and “least likely” would be for NATO to see signs of progress in the name talks and, based on that, extend an invitation to Skopje on condition that the country reached a name deal with Greece in the near future.
The second outcome would be for NATO to offer a strategic partnership deal to Macedonia as a consolation prize. This would practically put Macedonia under the NATO umbrella but without giving it voting rights in the alliance, explains the diplomat.
The third outcome would be for NATO to set a time frame for a name solution. This, the diplomat says, is not so favourable, as there is no likelihood of changing Greece’s already firm position on the name dispute, though this would still be better than repetition of the Bucharest summit conclusions.
Greece and Macedonia are locked in a two-decade dispute over how the former Yugoslav republic should describe itself.
Greece insists that its neighbour’s use of the name “Macedonia” 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 an insult and an attack on the country’s identity.
At the summit on May 20-21 Macedonia hopes to convince NATO members to budge, using as an argument the recent favourable ruling of the World Court.
In December the International Court of Justice, ICJ, ruled that Greece had breached an interim deal, brokered by the UN in 1995, when it blocked Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO in 2008. But the court did not directly order Greece to stop the blockade, as Macedonia had requested.
On a visit to Skopje in January, Philip Reeker, US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, said that despite the court ruling, Skopje and Athens would still have to reach a solution to the name dispute before Macedonia could join the alliance.
Meanwhile, the UN-brokered name talks have continued without a breakthrough. In February UN mediator Matthew Nimetz visited Athens and Skopje for a fresh round of talks.
“I haven’t come with new proposals, but with the intention of finding a way to accelerate the negotiations,” Nimetz then said.
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