Greek President slams Skopje intransigence on name dispute

Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday urged the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to drop its intransigence over an ongoing name dispute with Greece that has blocked the Balkan state’s European Union and NATO ambitions.

In an interview with Politika newspaper in Belgrade, where he is on an official two-day visit, Papoulias also expressed Greece’s support for Serbia’s EU membership, saying that the nation, a key Balkan ally, should be given a date for the beginning of EU talks later this month.

Serbia and its former province of Kosovo exchanged envoys on Monday for the first time since the war in the late 1990s, part of an EU deal that will enable the former enemies to come a step closer to membership of the bloc.

EU leaders will decide at a June 27 and 28 summit whether sufficient progress has been achieved by Belgrade and Pristina in honoring the agreement.

“[Serbia’s] historic agreement with Kosovo on April 19 and the efforts by the Serbian government to achieve convergence with EU values should precipitate the launch of membership negotiations,” Papoulias told the newspaper of a landmark deal that provided the first formal basis for normalized relations between the two neighbors.

However, the Greek president slammed Skopje’s ideology of “makedonism” adding that the FYROM administration is undermining the region’s common European vision.

“The UN has decided not to accept the country under its constitutional name, thus legitimizing Greece’s opposition,” said Papoulias.

Greece objects to the use of the name “Macedonia” by the former Yugoslav republic arguing it is a territorial appropriation of the name of its northern Greek province, and because it claims a legacy to Alexander the Great.

Papoulias said the Greek side has in recent years taken significant steps to reach a mutually acceptable solution in the context of UN-brokered negotiations. According to a UN security council declaration, Papoulias said, the new name will not only be for international or partial use, “but should be a name with a geographical qualifier for all purposes.”

“As long as Skopje insists on the ideology of ‘makedonism,’ the gates of NATO will stay closed and its process of European integration will remain frozen,” he said.