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Brent Scowcroft: ‘Nova Makedonija’ an excellent solution for FYROM

A head of today’s visit to Athens of UN mediator Matthew Nimetz for talks on resolving Greece’s dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over its use of the name «Macedonia,» Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to former US President George Bush Senior urged his former assistant, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to put pressure on Skopje to accept a compromise and call its country «New Macedonia.» One of the most clear-sighted, realistic and experienced people in Washington power centers, Scowcroft gave this interview to Kathimerini following Rice’s recent meetings with the foreign ministers of Greece and FYROM, Dora Bakoyannis and Antonio Milososki. Greece is concerned about irredentist claims that could destabilize the region and intends to veto FYROM’s application for NATO membership if there is no mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute. I am aware of this as I have been familiar with the issue since 1992. I understand Greece’s position. Irredentism is still an issue in the region. It also concerns me with regard to Kosovo, as Albanian irredentism could spread from there to FYROM. Greece believes that a composite name (for FYROM) is more just. I know. I have heard names such as New Macedonia (Nova Makedonija) and Upper (Gorna) Macedonia. If we had a bit more common sense we would urge the Macedonians to move in that direction. No Greek government would sign, and no Greek Parliament would ratify an enlargement of NATO unless there is a compromise. Look, FYROM is not ready to join NATO. The Alliance is not the European Union, which after all is aimed at contributing to a nation’s development and prosperity. That is not the purpose of NATO, which is a military alliance. US President George W. Bush feels that because Skopje sent a few dozen soldiers to Iraq when most people didn’t support him, he has a moral obligation to support Skopje. Well, why do you think they sent them to Iraq? (laughing). What advice would you give the US secretary of state in her handling of the issue? I would tell her that she has a choice to make: either exert pressure on Skopje to compromise or force an important ally to exercise its right to veto FYROM’s accession, making the politician who does so a hero in Greece. If that happens, the problem remains. If Greece exercises a veto, no future Greek government will dare change that position. That is more or less what happened in 1992 and we ended up with the ridiculous name of FYROM. I remember (the then prime minister Constantine) Mitsotakis had come to Washington to put pressure on us. The same thing is happening again. I have to say that back then it was a more sensitive issue in the sense that Yugoslavia was collapsing and we had a lot of issues to deal with. Greece feels that it has made a major compromise by agreeing to a composite name, which in 1992 and for another 15 years had not been acceptable to Athens. Some have suggested the name Nova Makedonija. I have heard that and it would be an excellent solution. It is the only name suggested by the United Nations via its mediator Cyrus Vance and has been ratified by a Security Council resolution. I don’t think it would be so difficult to get this name accepted and it would normalize your bilateral relations, to the great benefit of Skopje.