Skopje throws up obstacles in UN-buffered name talks


Skopje raised new obstacles to a solution to the name dispute with Athens after its chief negotiator said on Wednesday in New York that the proposal submitted by United Nations special mediator Matthew Nimetz was “far from dignified.” 

Striking a defiant tone after his meeting with his opposite number from Greece, Adamantios Vasilakis, and Nimetz in New York, Vasko Naumovski said that he saw no grounds for progress and told the Sitel TV station in Skopje that “we have a name, it is the republic of Macedonia… no one can deny the existence of a ‘Macedonian’ nation and language.” 

For his part, Nimetz struck a note of optimism, saying that “the procedure is moving in the right direction.”

He also reiterated his position, after the two-hour meeting in New York, that the solution will include the term “Macedonia,” which Panos Kammenos, the leader of Greece’s junior coalition partner, has said his party will not accept.

Any hopes for a solution without that term would be “unrealistic,” said Nimetz, who asked both negotiators to respond to the proposals in two weeks at the latest. He added that negotiations must lead to a result in one or two months. 

Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday, FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov appeared to put a slight damper on expectations of a swift resolution to the issue. He said there is a likelihood that there won’t be a breakthrough. 

“Despite all the optimism, we have to accept the possibility that we may not be able to overcome our differences at this time, but we are adamant about keeping at it, until we do,” he told Balkan Insight. 

“It is important that we do everything in our power, both in Skopje and Athens, to seize the moment,” Dimitrov told the site, adding that a final solution will be approved by a referendum. 

“The referendum will be very important for the sustainability of the solution. Of course the people have the final say – and it will be up to us to explain it well,” he said. 

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who arrived in Skopjeo on Wednesday for talks on FYROM’s renewed accession bid, reiterated that the tiny Balkan country’s chances of joining the alliance hinge on it reaching a solution to the name dispute with Greece. 

The dispute also stopped Skopje’s accession in its tracks in 2008. 

Stoltenberg will hold talks on Thursday in Skopje with the new leftist-led government, which has vowed to embark on a serious effort to resolve the name dispute with Greece.