As talks aimed at resolving the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) intensify, it has to be understood by all sides that any name that is agreed should be used domestically as well as internationally.
That is not some “maximalist” demand on Greece’s part. Agreeing on two separate names, one to be used at home and one internationally, would not prove useful, for practical as well as symbolic reasons.
Simply adopting a composite name for certain international actions and procedures will not suffice. The people of FYROM also need to embrace the essence of a name change – to accept and use the composite name. That is the only way to prevent nasty surprises that could damage bilateral ties at some point in the future and, by extension, stability in the region. In other words, a change in the Balkan country’s constitutional name must be a precondition for an overall settlement.
Achieving this will certainly not be an easy task. FYROM’s present coalition government does not enjoy the necessary two-thirds majority to change the constitution. Also, the constitution could be yet again changed by a future government or by a potentially different two-thirds parliamentary majority.
In light of these concerns, the United Nations and the “powerful” allies and partners who, for various reasons, want to see the issue resolved, could help move the process along if they exercised their influence to make sure that any name agreed between Athens and Skopje is used in all dealings, domestically and internationally. The deal will also be backed by an international agreement that will provide an extra safeguard that FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has suggested.
Recently Zaev himself said that his country will be expected to make certain changes to its constitution before it can join the EU, as in the process it will have to give up part of its sovereignty to Brussels – like all existing members have done in the past.
Using the right balance of carrots and sticks, the US and the EU could convince the political parties and the people of the neighboring state, who are keen on joining the EU and NATO, to accept a change in the constitution as this would prove the key to their prosperity and security.
Greece appears ready to go the distance by making significant concessions of its own, even if they do spark reactions at home. Insisting on a single name for all uses – at home, in bilateral relations and in international organizations – is not too much to ask. It is the self-evident, decisive step in the direction of a final and sustainable solution.