Good news

Two positive developments in 24 hours is quite an achievement when it comes to Greece’s foreign policy. The first development concerns a proposal by United Nations special envoy and mediator Matthew Nimitz over the longstanding name row concerning the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Nimitz’s proposal is likely to kick-start diplomatic negotiations aimed to solve this outstanding issue. A second promising issue concerns recent comments by senior Turkish officials that Ankara intends to scrap the casus belli policy against any attempt by Greece to extend its territorial waters. Lifting the National Council’s threat of a casus belli is a goodwill gesture in anticipation of the pending visit by Greece’s foreign minister to Ankara. However, even a Turkish concession on that issue does not touch the heart of bilateral problems and should therefore not be treated as a major turn of events. Turkey has done nothing more than terminate a policy that has been blatantly out of sync with its European ambitions. Although this is not some historic development, it would be wrong to underestimate its importance. Developments on the FYROM name dispute are more significant, for they could mark the beginning of a genuine solution to the feud. The Greek camp has been very active recently in a bid to break the deadlock and to bring things where they are now. The proposed name «Republica Makedonija-Skopje» does not fully meet Greek wishes, but given present circumstances the government in FYROM has no other real option but to accept the name. Although everything is still open, a potential rejection by the government in Skopje would bring a huge political cost to the small Balkan country, as the international community has made it clear it wants to close the book on the issue. FYROM officials will most probably take part in the talks in an attempt to limit the use of the new name by the United Nations and other international organizations. That means that they will exhaust all negotiating room before giving the nod to the UN proposal. For its part, Greece will try to make sure that the new name is used as widely as possible, but the future is hard to predict. That is not just because this is expected to be the main issue in the coming negotiations, but also because much will depend on the will of major countries to use the proposed name in their bilateral relations with Skopje. In any case, judging from results so far, Petros Molyviatis’s low-profile but systematic diplomacy is also an effective one.

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