Empty warnings

European Union leaders last week adopted the European Commission recommendation and accepted the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as a bloc candidate. The European political elites seem to have learned no lesson from the constitutional debacles in France and the Netherlands and continue with their plans for further expansion of the bloc. The French linked FYROM’s entry to the debate over the EU’s future but backed down after winning the budget war. True to form, the EU took another light-hearted decision as the crisis is still far in the future. But the institutional limbo will sooner or later deadlock the Union. And the result, as bargaining with Turkey showed, is second thoughts and diplomatic maneuvering. FYROM is no Turkey, of course, but it is far from ready to become a candidate. Skopje’s European ambitions also have a Greek dimension. Despite occasional warnings to the Slav-Macedonian administration, Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis finally gave the go-ahead. The statement in the Commission report that Skopje must make serious efforts to solve the name dispute in a mutually beneficial manner is hardly binding. Quite sarcastically, the Slav-Macedonian premier remarked that the statement about meeting Greece’s longstanding positions were meant for internal consumption. The government in Skopje has not paid any heed to Karamanlis’s warnings. FYROM will change its stand only if it is forced to – meaning, if it is blocked from joining the transatlantic institutions that are crucial to their survival. Lack of political will disable Greek threats of holding a referendum on the name dispute. Inevitably, the hint only invited US pressure on Athens to abandon the idea.