Comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday regarding Greece’s lingering name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were very important, but not because he claimed that efforts to revive the talks were linked to Washington’s desire to see the small Balkan state’s accession to NATO. After all, there was nothing unexpected or really new in Lavrov’s statement.
The United States, and the West in general, clearly want to incorporate Greece’s Balkan neighbor into the plans of the transatlantic alliance. This was felt by everyone who attended the NATO summit in Bucharest back in 2008. It was above all felt by then conservative Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis and his foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis during their contacts with then American president George W. Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. That was not an easy summit for Greece.
There was a more significant dimension in the remarks of the Russian foreign minister, which Greece has every reason to emphasize, also making it more likely that it will be taken into account by the United Nations mediator on the name issue, Matthew Nimetz: Lavrov said that no matter what Athens and Skopje agree on, if this is officially decided and ratified in FYROM’s constitution, it will then be recognized by everyone.
The veteran Russian diplomat stated in the most straightforward manner that Moscow will recognize the Balkan state under its constitutional name. This is yet another clear indication that there is no room for middle-of-the-road solutions.
It won’t be enough for the Security Council to advise, prompt, urge or recommend UN member-states to accept and adopt the new name agreed between Athens and Skopje – an idea entertained by some quarters in the United Nations on the grounds that it cannot “force” other governments to adopt a solution.
For this reason, Lavrov reminded everyone that any solution must include a change in the neighboring state’s constitution. This is the only way to ensure that the name is used by all organizations and countries.
It is not just Greece which is promoting the use by all of any name agreed upon after the negotiations. This is, practically speaking, also the most workable solution. And it is a parameter than Nimetz simply cannot ignore in the negotiations of the coming months.