In an editorial (?Skopje and the diplomatic vise?) published in this newspaper two weeks ago, I maintained the same stance I had taken when the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) took Greece to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2008. Greece, I argued back then, should have withdrawn from the interim agreement as was its legal right as of 2002.
A representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry responded with an article in the Ethnos daily newspaper on April 7. According to the ministry, because the interim agreement determines the framework of bilateral relations, denouncing it would require the negotiation of a fresh deal. That is correct, but it is not a reason not to. FYROM has even more reasons than Greece not to leave bilateral relations up in the air.
The Foreign Ministry is wrong to claim that a withdrawal from the interim agreement would signify a questioning of the entire negotiation process on Greece?s part. Negotiations over the name dispute with the neighboring country are taking place on the basis of resolutions 817 and 845 of the United Nations Security Council and not the interim deal. The ministry claims that withdrawing from the above agreement would give the — wrong — impression that Greece is now the counterproductive side.
Both claims are groundless. More importantly they contradict Greece?s defense line according to which negotiations between the two sides have lost most of their meaning. It should be noted here that the interim agreement was designed to buy time for a permanent compromise settlement. However, the government in Skopje has rejected any sort of compromise. And this is why I have argued that the interim agreement should have been terminated once it expired.
The Foreign Ministry said that in order to avoid any damage to national interests (even theoretical), ?the denunciation of the deal should have taken place at least a year before FYROM took the issue to court.? But the ministry was under the impression that such an issue would not come up.
As it turned out, of course, the issue did come up, but the ministry failed to predict it. Denouncing the agreement made sense even after Skopje referred Greece to the Hague tribunal. It would not have averted judgment but it would have strengthened Greece?s central argument that the court does not have the jurisdiction to rule on a political dispute.
These are poor excuses on behalf of the ministry. Let?s hope that we will not have to come back to this issue once the court ruling is out.