Officials in Skopje await the next step from Athens

The government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has every reason to be pleased. Struggles lasting more than a decade to have their country recognized internationally as the «Republic of Macedonia» have been more than vindicated with the recent recognition by the US. Moreover, a referendum on local government that might, if it had been successful, have threatened the Ohrid agreement on the coexistence of Albanians and Slav-Macedonians was canceled. Immovable stance The stance taken by FYROM’s leadership on the name issue is, for the moment, unchanged. As it has done over the past few years, FYROM has agreed to a mutually acceptable name, as Athens appears to be seeking, but that name will be the «Republic of Macedonia» in its relations with the international community, while another name will be agreed upon in New York for Greece to use in bilateral relations. It is of little concern to Skopje whether this «mutually acceptable solution» will satisfy Greece, since it now feels it has the upper hand after the recognition of its own constitutional name by the planet’s superpower. It does not feel that a possible veto by Greece regarding its membership in the European Union is much of a threat. According to a FYROM Foreign Ministry official, any such veto would be unfair, and would meet with considerable opposition from other EU partners, who would isolate Athens. «Why should Greece exercise its veto now, after it has been supporting our desire to join the EU for so long? We have always wanted to be recognized by our constitutional name; this is not the first time we have raised this issue. Everyone knows that, and so does Greece. Nor is it fair that we be punished because the US has recognized us,» claimed the official. As to whether Greece will take its dispute to the European Union, government circles in Skopje wonder whether the EU has any reason to oppose Washington on the issue of a name in a region that is in a state of such dangerous fluidity. The FYROM leadership, moreover, feels that the US recognition of the country as the «Republic of Macedonia» has protected it from any potential secessionist moves by its ethnic Albanian population, since it believes that Washington’s recognition of the state with its current borders is a guarantee of its territorial integrity, should the Slav-Macedonians be threatened by Albanian extremism. Nevertheless, Skopje remains concerned, since it sees its relations with Greece as strategically important. Under no circumstances does it want to spoil the positive climate that has developed in recent years. Friendship and cooperation between the two peoples is strong; meanwhile, as soon as the US recognition was announced, FYROM’s leaders hastened to reassure Athens of their desire to maintain good relations with Athens. After all, Greece has invested 700 million euros in FYROM, creating 20,000 jobs. Meanwhile, about 300,000 FYROM nationals cross the border into Greece every year, boosting the ailing tourism economy of northern Greece.