Amid growing international pressure for a solution to the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), diplomats are to resume efforts to break the deadlock this week.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and FYROM’s Nikola Dimitrov are expected to have an initial exchange on the sidelines of a summit of European Union and Balkan ministers, on Friday and Saturday, in Sounio, east of Athens. Negotiations on the name dispute are to resume in earnest from Saturday when United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz is due to visit Greece.
Nimetz is expected to push for some sort of progress ahead of a scheduled summit of EU and Balkan leaders in Sofia on May 16 and 17. The aim is for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart, Zoran Zaev, to meet on the sidelines of the summit and, if enough ground has been covered, announce a deal.
The two major barriers for a breakthrough are Greece’s insistence that any name deal should be “erga omnes” – namely that the same name is used domestically and internationally – and that references Athens deems to suggest irredentist aims be removed from FYROM’s constitution.
According to recent statements by Kotzias, Athens is prepared to discuss four out of five names that are currently on the table of UN-mediated talks. The only name that Greek diplomats refuse to negotiate is Republic of Macedonia.
Even if a deal is reached, it will face obstacles to pass into law. FYROM authorities intend to put it to a referendum, and any changes to FYROM’s constitution must pass through its Parliament where Zaev’s government does not have an absolute majority.
FYROM diplomats argue that a deal would be secure as the country’s top courts have never deemed the constitution to override international agreements.