The day after Bucharest

All indications are that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will remain steadfast and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will not make it into NATO at the Bucharest summit. As things stand, it would be political suicide for him to back down, though this did not deter some from suggesting that he accept FYROM’s accession in exchange for a rather vague US promise to find a solution to the name dispute at a later date. If Washington sees that the premier does not succumb to pressure, the US diplomatic machine will probably try to ensnare him some other way. For example, it can have the summit conclusions worded in such a way as to secure an invitation to FYROM at the next NATO summit, without clearly stating that a solution to the name dispute is a prerequisite. Though an obvious trap, the danger is great. Karamanlis will not only face pressure from abroad, but will likely be told from within that the political cost of such a compromise will be small. If the premier avoids such traps, the international climate will become quite hot for Greece, but Athens will have safeguarded its strategic advantage. Skopje will realize that America’s support is not enough in itself to ensure membership in NATO and the EU. It will understand that Greece holds the key and will then have to face the real dilemma: On the one hand, the country’s constitutional name and the dream of a «Greater Macedonia» which it represents, and, on the other, the very tangible benefits of EU and NATO membership. Athens cannot unilaterally enforce a change of name, but it can make Skopje pay a heavy price for refusing to budge. Skopje knows that membership would protect the fragile unity of the country, at risk from Albanian designs to supposedly «liberate» their ethnic brethren, and this is why, sooner or later, Skopje will have to negotiate an honest compromise that reflects regional realities.

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