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Possible accord between Greece and Macedonia

Over at Just Joe, Joe Grieboski reports on some possible good news:

It appears an end to the 19 year-old dispute between Greece and Macedonia may be at hand. Sort of.

The Greek government has announced that it is open to a proposal that would add “Northern” to the name of its independent neighbor.

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas announced to the Kathimerini newspaper that U.N. mediator Matthew Nimetz’s suggestion of Northern Macedonia “fits with the framework for a settlement that we have set out.”

Since the independence of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece has opposed the use of the name Macedonia for the state, which is also the name of a northern Greek province.

Athens claims that historical and territorial concerns resulting from the lack of disambiguation between the independent country of Macedonia and the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia motivate its actions. Greece also objects to the non-disambiguated use of the term Macedonian for the neighboring country’s main ethnic group and language.

However, there seems to me to be a disingenuousness in the acceptance of “Northern Macedonia” as a term for the country. If Athens was so concerned about disambiguation, therefore permitting territorial claims, does the term Northern Macedonia not then raise similar concerns for the Skopje players? Could Athens’ acceptance of such a phraseology mask territorial claims? To me, Northern Macedonia has the same ring as Upper Egypt or North Carolina…

Droutsas further added that Greece was willing to drop its opposition to European Union accession if Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski agreed to add “Northern” to his country’s name.

Droutsas was quoted by Kathimerini as saying, “He [Macedonian Prime Minister Gruevski] will have to explain to his people why he is depriving them of their European prospects… Skopje must demonstrate its political will.”

An intriguing example of political blackmailing committed by Droutsas: accept our acceptance or we will continue to keep you out of the European Union and NATO.

After 19 years and countless proposals and negotiations, it seems to me that Skopje is not the only one that needs to demonstrate political will…

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.