Athens urges Skopje move

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called upon the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to drop its intransigent stance in the name dispute with Greece and cooperate in finding a solution if it wishes to be taken seriously as a potential member of NATO. «Skopje must meet us halfway so we can settle on a mutually acceptable solution,» Karamanlis told Parliament. Karamanlis’s comments came as sources told Kathimerini that United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, charged with mediating the name dispute, is due in Athens next month, probably on December 3 and 4. The PM had been responding to a question by far-right LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis who accused the government of a «political shift» on the FYROM issue and called for a referendum on whether the country should be considered as a candidate for European Union membership. Karamanlis rejected the call for a referendum, saying there was a «broad consensus» among political parties on matters of national interest and that the issue would be debated in Parliament. «National interests are harmed when they are subordinated to partisan expediencies,» Karamanlis said. But Karamanlis’s sternest words were reserved for FYROM authorities who, he said, «must realize that persistence and intransigence do not build alliances… nor does obsessively hostile propaganda or irredentist logic.» FYROM must demonstrate that its behavior is in keeping with NATO and EU member states if it wants to join these clubs, the premier added. «It must prove that it wants to be an ally and a partner, it must show respect for international law, and it must fulfill all preconditions, without exception,» Karamanlis said. Athens has said it will consider a composite name for FYROM, which would clearly differentiate the Balkan state from the region of Macedonia in northern Greece. FYROM has refused to consider an alternative to its «constitutional name» which, it says, is the Republic of Macedonia.