NEWS

NATO awaits FYROM

SOFIA (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said yesterday he hoped the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would resolve a name dispute with Greece soon so it could still join the alliance at the same time as Albania and Croatia. NATO allies issued formal invitations last month to Albania and Croatia, but FYROM was left out because of a longstanding dispute with NATO-member Greece over its name, which is the same as its neighbor’s northernmost province. The 26-member alliance is hoping to welcome in the two new entrants at a summit in Strasbourg next April and Scheffer suggested there was still time for FYROM. «I do hope that we might at a certain stage see three invitations, and not only Albania and Croatia, but our friends in Skopje as well,» Scheffer told reporters after meeting with Bulgarian officials in Sofia. «You know that the name issue will have to be solved for that,» he added. «There is no direct NATO role in that but I express a hope that a solution will be found sooner rather than later on the basis of NATO’s ‘open door’ policy and also in the interest of security and stability in the Balkans,» he added. The «open door» policy refers to NATO readiness to study the membership aspirations of any European democracy. Greece wants its neighbor to adopt a compound name such as «Upper Macedonia» or »New Macedonia,» an idea that is unacceptable to Skopje.