NEWS

Skopje cool on name deal

Officials in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the weekend rejected a United Nations proposal to trim the country’s cumbersome name down to three words as a way of solving a 14-year-old dispute with Athens. FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski was quoted by the Athens News Agency, in a report from Skopje, as saying on Saturday his country had not received any official notification from the UN on the proposed formula, but expected to do so today. However, he totally rejected the idea of the name «Republika Makedonija-Skopje» – which, according to Athens, would be used internationally in that form, untranslated – being adopted as the official name for the country that emerged in 1991 after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Crvenkovski said the three-word version might possibly do for use on a strictly bilateral level with Greece, and no other country. Officials in FYROM favor the plain «Republic of Macedonia» – as which Washington officially recognized FYROM last November, causing dismay in Athens – for their country’s name. Athens opposes that appellation, arguing that it could imply territorial claims on the large northern Greek province of Macedonia. On Saturday, President Karolos Papoulias, under whose tenure as Socialist foreign minister in 1994 Greece imposed economic sanctions on FYROM in a bid to stop its use of the name «Macedonia,» described the UN proposal as «a very good opportunity for FYROM’s government to contribute to peace and stability in the Balkans.» Echoing comments by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Friday, Papoulias said the proposal was «a good basis for the initiation of negotiations» with Skopje, adding that it «requires alterations.» Yesterday, FYROM’s main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, also rejected any change to the country’s constitutionally established name of the «Republic of Macedonia.»