Despite claiming progress on refugee management and a series of secondary issues, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Thursday admitted that substantial differences remain in resolving the nearly 25-year name dispute between the two Balkan neighbors.
“There are huge mountains between us,” FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said after talks with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Athens. “The creation of false expectation is in no one’s interest,” he said.
Poposki said that his government has “the political duty not to agree to just any solution,” adding that any name change would have to be approved in a national referendum.
Kotzias said the two sides were seeking “an honorable compromise that combats irredentism and extremist nationalism on both sides.”
Athens has disputed the Balkan state’s use of the name “Macedonia,” adopted after Skopje declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, arguing it implies territorial claims to Greece’s northern province with the same name. It has in response blocked its neighbor’s EU and NATO ambitions.
The two sides, which have had to work together in dealing with the northbound refugee flow through their common border near Idomeni, in northern Greece, pointed to further cooperation in the area.
“We all need to ensure the safe and humanitarian handling of these people,” said Poposki, adding that “fences cannot be a long-term solution.”
“When there is a full system for correct registration, we won’t need to put up obstacles,” said Poposki, who also met with Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas.
Stressing that Greece is the biggest investor in FYROM, Kotzias hailed the success of confidence-building measures between the two countries which are being developed in a wide range of sectors including the economy, culture and education.