PM gets veto boost

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s popularity has received a boost after Greece stopped the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from joining NATO last week, but most Greeks agree that ties between the two countries need to improve, according to a survey. A Public Issue poll, commissioned by Sunday’s Kathimerini, showed that 95 percent of those questioned supported the government’s decision to use a veto to stop FYROM from joining NATO due to the name dispute between the two countries. Just over a third of those questioned also said they now have a better impression of the PM, whose popularity had recently dipped due to the conservative government’s controversial pension reforms. However, a large 77 percent added that Greece must work to boost ties two between the two nations. In Skopje, public sentiment ranged from disappointment to bitterness at NATO and Greece after the summit, with a few Greek businessmen in the neighboring country saying the veto has resulted in attacks against their property. The name dispute will soon again be on the negotiating table as United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz is believed to be working on a new proposal. Sources told Kathimerini that a name likely to be up for debate will be «Nova Makedonija» (New Macedonia). FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski agreed to launch talks in Skopje straight away to decide how to approach the issue following Greece’s veto. Karamanlis indicated last week that Greece may also block FYROM’s entry to the EU if differences over the name remain. Meanwhile on Saturday, President George W. Bush assured FYROM the United States wants it in NATO as soon as possible, along with other former Yugoslav republics. In a speech in Croatia marking its formal invitation to join NATO, Bush said he looked forward to seeing all Balkan candidates join the Western alliance which marks its 60th birthday next year. «America’s position is clear: Macedonia should take its place in NATO as soon as possible,» he said. Parliament is scheduled to discuss developments on the FYROM name issue on Thursday.

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