Skopje’s friendship offensive

In the middle of summer, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) chose to open its borders to Greek visitors presenting just their identity cards. The FYROM government was reportedly prompted to simplify border procedures in response to demand from hoteliers and travel agents. FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki presented another, more interesting, aspect in referring to the «goodwill gesture to Greece.» It is behind the latter statement that one should probably seek the real reasons for the «gesture,» rather than in cross-border trade, since all Greeks who travel back and forth from FYROM would have certainly seen to it that they were carrying new passports. In view of FYROM’s accession to NATO next spring, its leaders need to present a more friendly face to Greece. Since they have applied to join the Atlantic alliance with the acronym FYROM, they have removed any reason for Greece to veto, so will be trying to weaken any of Greece’s arguments regarding a violation of the rules of good neighborly relations or irredentism. So Greece should expect more of this kind of «friendly» move as the hour of judgment in NATO arrives. In their attempt to rid themselves of the image of intransigence over the name dispute with Greece, they are likely to make other gestures, even canceling the decision to rename their airport «Alexander the Great.» NATO sources in Brussels believe Skopje’s public relations offensive against Greece just might be accompanied by dangermongering over their country’s future, that destablization is a risk as long as the country remains outside Euro-Atlantic institutions. Unfortunately, as these moves by Skopje have escalated, Greece is heading for elections in which, the government has stated, foreign policy issues will not be involved.