NEWS

From FYROM to double-barreled compromise?

Athens indicated willingness yesterday to take a major step toward finding a mutually acceptable name for its tiny northern neighbor, which for the past 14 years has officially gone by the cumbersome name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Unofficially, most countries prefer the shorter version, Macedonia, as which the United States suddenly recognized the state last November, catching Athens unawares. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said Greece was ready to negotiate on the basis of a UN-drafted compromise, under which FYROM would be internationally known as Republika Makedonija-Skopje. «It would be in that language, untranslated,» he told journalists after holding a series of briefings with the leaders of Greece’s main opposition parties. Molyviatis said the formula had been proposed by the UN special envoy on FYROM, Matthew Nimetz, and would be used by all UN bodies, which would recommend that all international organizations and all nations should also adopt the same usage. «Our position is that this proposal does not fully satisfy our wishes and aims,» the minister said. «But we believe it is a basis for negotiations. We are prepared to approach these negotiations in a positive, constructive spirit.» Molyviatis warned that «apart from the basic position in Mr Nimetz’s proposal, there are other points which will have to be clarified and/or modified,» and issued a not-so-veiled threat that failure in Skopje to cooperate would compromise FYROM’s hopes of joining the European Union or NATO. In Skopje, the government showed little enthusiasm for Nimetz’s proposal, with Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski saying he would persist with FYROM’s campaign for the country to be recognized as plain Republic of Macedonia by the entire world apart from Greece, with which a separate deal could be struck. The question of FYROM’s name has poisoned Greece’s relations with the tiny, landlocked state which emerged after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991. Ever since, successive governments in Athens have maintained that no name containing the word «Macedonia» would be acceptable, as it might imply territorial claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia. Officials in FYROM – whose population is of overwhelmingly Slavic descent – have been eager to claim affinity with the ancient Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great, which predated the Slav migrations by centuries. This caused outrage in Greece, particularly the north, where a Thessaloniki rally drew an estimated 1 million people in 1991. In spring 1994, Greece’s PASOK Socialist government imposed economic sanctions on FYROM, which remained in place until autumn 1995. PASOK yesterday said it would await developments before commenting on the government’s announcements – which the Communists and Synaspismos Left Coalition praised.