Gruevski caught in a trap

The EU’s decision in Bucharest presented Skopje with a dilemma – either to persist with the ideological construct of «Macedonia» or to join Euro-Atlantic organizations. The prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nicola Gruevski won the elections by promising to get the country into NATO and furthering the European Union accession process without conceding anything on the issue of the country’s name. Those concessions depend on him, but the keys to the door of NATO and the EU are in Greece’s hands. For the time being, the Slav-Macedonian prime minister is trying to extricate himself from a tight corner by resorting to incendiary statements on the one hand and letter-writing maneuvers on the other. These moves might make an impression but do nothing to improve his position. Athens clearly has the political advantage. Gruevski is using intransigence to buy time in the belief that if Greece continues to threaten to use its right of veto, it will come under heavy pressure from Washington and the Europeans, and that his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis will sooner or later beat a hasty retreat or agree to a settlement that suits Skopje. So it is politically crucial for Athens to make it clear that it will not stand for Skopje monopolizing the Macedonian identity and that Skopje’s policy is undermining the substance of the negotiations and is therefore excluding itself from Euro-Atlantic institutions. Greece has no time to waste, but it has no reason to hurry. If it avoids any blunders and remains steadfast, time will work in its favor. The Slav-Macedonians’ persistence in monopolizing the Macedonian identity is a luxury they cannot afford strategically. They are likely to continue with their nationalist fantasies, but come December, when the doors to NATO and the EU remain closed to them, they will have to come down to earth.