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In the dispute over Macedonia's name Greece is in a more negative position

11 January 2012 / 18:01:15  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The decision of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, with which Greece was condemned for its veto against Macedonia's NATO membership, obviously caused a new dynamic in the way Athens sees the argument with its western neighbour. Greek experts are for a composite name with a geographical definition that can be used by all regarding the name of Macedonia. This was announced during a discussion organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and international affairs.

Two of the most experienced diplomats involved in the negotiations said that they are for the immediate impugnment of the 1995 Interim Accord between the two countries and a final agreement should be signed. They condemned the positions of the Greek political parties and called for the adoption of a national strategy, without excesses in favour of party interests. One of them even suggested for a referendum to be held, because he believes that no Greek government will ever be able to bear the political burden of solving this problem. Diplomats stressed that time is in favour of Macedonia, whose leaders accused Greece of acts of irredentism, which is not conducive to successful resolution of the dispute between the two countries.

According to Evangelos Kofos, also called "Mr. Macedonian issue" in the Greek foreign ministry, the decision of the International Criminal court in Hague was pre-signed 16 years ago in New York with the signing of the "dead-end text, also called the Interim Accord. This arrangement avoided the solution with the name and left many questions open, which have violated our sovereignty rights."

He declared his opinion for the immediate start of a process for signing the final agreement on the issue. "Today's severe economic situation and the crisis cannot be an excuse for further delays in addressing national issues," he said. The long-time diplomat said he was surprised by the meeting invitation to the representatives of both countries in New York next week, which was sent by dispute mediator Matthew Nimetz, "after a whole year. I do not want to believe that the resumption of negotiations has anything to do with the decision of the tribunal in The Hague or with the severe economic situation of Greece," he said, and criticized the reaction of the Greek political forces during the announcement of the court’s decision. According to Evangelos Kofos the dispute over Macedonia's name is not legal but political. "It is not only about the name. Let's not forget that for us it is about a quarter of the country’s territory and respectively, with a quarter of its people." The third element, according to him is that Greek objections are not so complicated to understand compared to those who do not understand "the insistence of Greece on the name of a foreign country." The diplomat stressed that the objections relate to the behaviour of a neighbouring country that is trying to monopolize the name Macedonia and its derivatives at an international level, “even though the same name exists in much larger territory and population in the Greek part of Macedonia. And its three regions - Western, Central and Eastern Macedonia - Thrace - are recognized precisely with those names as regions of the European Union."

"Until now we see a continuous attempt by the leadership of the neighbouring country, to create an atmosphere of challenging Greek sovereignty over the territories that define the Greek part of Macedonia. This atmosphere can be created inside, but it indirectly influences the international public opinion. Within its framework are also the attempts for usurpation of what is defined as Macedonian regarding both territory and time - the history of the people, who have inhabited this area and their cultural heritage.

According to Evangelos Kofos Greece’s request should be linked to the practical acknowledgement by Macedonia that the Greek part of Macedonia is an integral part of Greece, as well as to respect the historical and cultural identity of the Greek people and especially the inhabitants of this region. "This means that an end must be out to the already established theories in the curriculum of the Macedonian schools and universities, which say that except for the territory of the Republic of Macedonia, the Greek part of Macedonia, part of south-eastern Bulgaria, and a strip of Albanian territory, are part of a common homeland, as they call it." After citing also the appropriation of historical figures and events that are part of the history of other nations, the veteran diplomat underlined that the efforts of the Greek country should be directed towards the removal of the "Antiquisation" policy, as opponents of the policy of Nikola Gruevski in Skopje call it.

Evangelos Kofos submits his proposal for resolving the on-going conflict over two decades by signing a final agreement, "in which the members of the intermediate agreement will be reserved, but in revised form where necessary." He stressed that the agreement signed in 1995 was based on another text by Cyrus Vance, approved by both sides, which provided the name New Macedonia. "I personally believe that the name should be closer to its citizens and especially to clearly define the territory over which our neighbouring country exercises legal sovereignty. Years ago in one of Matthew Nimetz’s suggestions, proposed names were Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia. For connoisseurs of the history of the Macedonian issue in the 20th century, it is clear that only one of these three names combines all those characteristics."

Tags: Greece Macedonia name dispute UN NATO The Hague
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