‘Talks and negotiations are the only way to find a solution’

A second round of talks regarding the name has already begun in New York. What do you expect from them? It is true that there is a major difference between the two countries’ views on the name issue and the only way to find a solution is through talks and negotiations. I believe that both sides are participating with the best political will, with the best of intentions of finding a solution. It is true that no solution has yet been found, but we should bear in mind that this is a very important and sensitive issue. What we often forget is that the talks in New York are doing much toward overcoming the prejudices that prevailed in the recent past. For example, I believe that today, no one, or almost no one, believes that the existence of our country is a threat to your country. That was not the case 10 or 11 years ago. Over this period of time, we have shown that our country has been steadily building very good relations with Greece. Aside from that, developments have shown generally that the existence of the Republic of Macedonia is an additional factor for stability in the broader region, and that stability is also of benefit to Greece. Throughout the recent talks, have there been times when both sides almost managed to reach an agreement, and if so, why did not this not eventuate? I cannot say that there has been any particular point where we neared a resolution of the problem. If there has been progress, that has been achieved gradually. Athens and Skopje declare they agree that a mutually acceptable solution should be found so as to close the issue. What do you believe to be an acceptable solution that the Greek side could also accept? If there was an acceptable formula, both for Skopje and for Athens, we would be able to say that the problem has been solved. Unfortunately, so far no such formula has been found and at this moment all I can tell you is our own position. We are now proposing a solution that safeguards the right of an independent country to decide on its own constitutional name, while taking into consideration Greece’s sensitivity regarding this issue. That means that we are proposing that our constitutional name be used in our international relations, while in our bilateral relations with Greece, we should find a mutually acceptable solution. Yet Athens is expecting you to take another step. Are you truly willing to make a goodwill gesture? Previously, we have made some goodwill gestures. One of these was our agreement to amend some of the articles in our constitution so as to use terms that no one could interpret as being an attempt to interfere in Greece’s domestic affairs or those of any other neighboring country. The second step was to alter our national flag. The third is the fact that we agreed that there are differences and that we should negotiate, a step that no other country in the world has taken. You know that within the UN, we are referred to by our provisional name, FYROM. The fact that we do not object is a concession on our part. To use your own term, it is another goodwill gesture. Even our proposal for a double-name formula is a goodwill gesture, since we agree that in our bilateral relations, our constitutional name should not be used. I would like to add, finally, that under no circumstances do we see our constitutional name as the basis for any exclusive right to the name Macedonia, whether in the geographical or historic sense. What is your view of the warnings by Greece’s leaders that no Greek Parliament would ever ratify an agreement referring to your country’s accession to NATO and the European Union under its constitutional name? I think that these proclamations – because I think that is what they are – are not the right approach to take, either for Greece or for the European Union. This kind of approach means that Greece, instead of using a well-founded argument in the negotiations, is using its position in the European Union and NATO to exert pressure. I would even use the word blackmail. If every permanent member of the European Union and NATO behaved in this way toward a country applying for membership in the enlargement of the EU or Atlantic alliance, this would endanger a very important program for the European Union, that of an enlarged Europe, a program that is more important than any bilateral problem.