The future of FYROM

Just when the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) seemed to have locked in EU candidate status, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Monday cast doubts on the bloc’s ability to expand further. That did not please the government in Athens, which had only just demanded – and indeed got – a guarantee that EU talks would be held with the current name FYROM. Keeping FYROM outside the bloc was not among Greece’s aims. Greece, like other Western nations, deems that FYROM’s accession to the EU and NATO will increase its chances of survival. The Slav-Macedonian population already feels the pressure from the country’s ethnic Albanian element. Pressure is expected to intensify further should Kosovo gain independence from Belgrade. Skopje is already looking for regional allies. An IHT report yesterday said that more than 21,000 Slav-Macedonians have applied for Bulgarian citizenship since 2001 and nearly 7,000 have already been awarded the documents. The nation carved out by Yugoslav dictator Tito is disintegrating. Greece is on standby, but without really being able to prevent Bulgaria’s penetration into FYROM nor to offset that by using its right to give passports to ethnic Greeks in that corner of the Balkans. If FYROM is not granted EU candidate status, Washington will step in to back Skopje. A confrontation, however mild, between the US and Europe will have negative consequences for Greece. But the big threat will be for UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz to resign his mandate on the FYROM name issue, taking the whole issue to the UN General Assembly which could lead to the recognition of that state as «Republic of Macedonia.» Putting pressure on the EU will not do. Greece must also turn to Washington before things turn bad for the western Balkans.