People power summoned

Athens gave its strongest indication yesterday that it could put any proposal for a resolution of its name dispute with Skopje to a popular vote after throwing out the latest idea put forward by the UN for a settlement. «When the time comes, the government, whichever government, must have all its options open,» Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis told reporters when he was questioned about whether Greece would hold a referendum on a future proposal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Piqued by what it labeled a «one-sided» proposal by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, Athens dredged up the possibility of bringing Greek public opinion back into the equation. The idea of a referendum being held in Greece had largely disappeared over the last 10 years. Nimetz’s latest proposal was not made public, but Athens flatly rejected it on Saturday while Skopje said yesterday that it formed a good basis for further negotiations. This was a complete reversal of the last suggestion from Nimetz in April for FYROM to be called Republika Makedonija-Skopje. The idea was accepted by Athens but not by Skopje, which wants to be known as Republic of Macedonia. Greece has opposed the use of the name «Macedonia» since FYROM was formed in 1991. The reaction from Athens indicates a shift to a harder stance against its neighbor’s demands. Molyviatis reiterated yesterday that Greece reserved the right to veto FYROM’s aspirations of joining the EU and NATO. Meanwhile, when asked whether Athens still had confidence in Nimetz, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos did not give a direct reply. Greece will not raise any objections in Brussels in the short term as a committee examining future relations between the EU and FYROM is due to deliver a report on Nov. 9, which will then be taken up either by the bloc’s foreign ministers or at the summit in December. Meanwhile, Athens yesterday made a representation to Washington over comments by US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, a former ambassador to Greece, supporting a report claiming Greece treats ethnic minorities and Gypsies poorly. The current US ambassador, Charles Ries, was summoned to receive the complaint.