NEWS

NATO chief gives Greece a hand with FYROM issue

NATO’s secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, yesterday buoyed diplomats in Athens by emphasizing the importance of Greece as an established member of the alliance and calling on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to take a more constructive stance in efforts to resolve the Macedonia name dispute. But Athens made it clear that it would not give up its right to veto FYROM’s accession to the alliance if a «mutually acceptable» solution is not found. Speaking after talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Scheffer said «it would be a big plus» if a solution is found before next month’s NATO summit – where FYROM’s accession is to be considered. But he stressed that Greece’s views on the name issue carried weight. «Greece is an historic member of NATO, the aspiring nations are not members of NATO and that is a basic difference,» he said. Following the talks, Karamanlis reiterated Greece’s stance: «No solution means no invitation.» Scheffer indirectly backed this stance by saying, «Invitations… will only be issued on the basis of performance,» adding that «the name issue is considered as performance.» Karamanlis again threw the ball into FYROM’s court. «We have taken several steps forward and are now waiting for FYROM to step forward,» he said. The only official comment from FYROM’s government yesterday came from Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki who stuck to his guns. «The right to a constitutional name and national identity is an inalienable right of every country,» he said. Karamanlis said Greece still supported FYROM’s NATO prospects but would veto its bid to join the alliance if the name dilemma persists. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Skopje must respect the principles of a club it aspires to join. «An inviolable prerequisite for enlargement of an alliance… is the undeviating observation of its principles and rules,» she said. President Karolos Papoulias, who also met with Scheffer, said Greece’s stance is «very, very clear,» adding that «(the name issue) might be a problem for NATO but it is a bigger problem for Greece.»