NEWS

ICJ ruling sets FYROM name dispute on new footing

Greece is bracing itself for renewed efforts by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to try to join NATO and the European Union after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Monday that Athens had breached the interim deal between the two countries by blocking Skopje?s attempt to join the military alliance.

Greece?s move in 2008 ?breached its obligation? under a 1995 provisional agreement to end the dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic, the ICJ ruled. Significantly, though, the court declined FYROM?s request to order Athens to stop objecting to Skopje?s membership in ?any other international, multilateral and regional organizations and institutions,? saying it did not consider such a move necessary.

Sources in Athens said Greece expects FYROM to use the ruling to boost its attempt to gain membership of NATO and the EU. The Greek government is hoping that both groupings will make it clear to Skopje that the ICJ?s ruling will not influence their ultimate verdicts as they are based on collective decision-making.

In its defense, Greece argued that the decision not to admit FYROM to NATO at a summit in Bucharest in 2008 was taken by all the alliance?s members. However, the court took into account statements by Greece?s then Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who made it clear that Athens was not prepared to allow FYROM to join NATO unless the Macedonia name dispute was resolved.

?Greece will continue to pursue negotiations in good faith to reach a mutually acceptable solution,? the Greek Foreign Ministry said. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said that ?reaching a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue is a condition for the full normalization of relations,? adding that ?continuing provocation? by FYROM was harming the process.

There was a relatively low-key reaction from Skopje to the ICJ?s ruling. President Gjorge Ivanov said that ?for the time being, we do not want to look [at this] through the categories of winners and losers. We need to work together with Greece on our common future and the future of our region.?

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said the ruling would give ?a new, positive impulse to move forward and overcome the name dispute.?

?The ruling is not an obstacle, but the opposite, an additional positive momentum to find a solution for the issue that has blocked our Euro-Atlantic integrations,? he said.