The FINANCIAL — The United Nations says progress can be made to resolve a 26-year-old dispute between Athens and Skopje over the latter’s use of the name “Macedonia.”
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters late on January 29 that “there has been some positive momentum generated” in UN-brokered talks and a solution could be found “with the right spirit of compromise by the leadership and by the peoples of the two countries.”
Matthew Nimetz, the UN envoy dealing with the matter, was due in Greece on January 30 for the start of two days of talks aimed at resolving the dispute.
Nimetz was scheduled to meet with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in the early afternoon on January 30, according to Greece’s Foreign Ministry.
He was then expected to travel to Macedonia for meetings with officials in Skopje, according to RFE/RL.
Nimetz on January 29 wouldn’t comment on the ideas he has been presenting to both sided.
But he did say he didn’t “think it’s realistic to expect the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia not to have Macedonia in some form in its name.”
Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since its independence in September 1991 has complicated the Balkan country’s bids to join the Europe Union and NATO.
As a NATO member, Greece has blocked Macedonia’s bid to join the alliance because of the name dispute.
Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.
Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said they want to settle the dispute by the end of 2018, and the two sides have agreed to intensify consultations.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on January 27 that he is ready to accept a “composite name” that includes the moniker “Macedonia.”
That could mean a name such as Upper Macedonia or New Macedonia, he said following talks with the leaders of most opposition parliamentary parties.
But Tsipras failed to receive backing from Greek opposition parties, with Conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying, “We will not divide Greeks to unite Skopje.”
Protests In Both Countries
In Skopje, a “coordination meeting” under Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov went late into the night on January 27.
Protesters demanding an end to negotiations on the issue gathered outside the meeting, which was attended by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, and opposition leaders.
The demonstrators also objected to Zaev’s plan to rename Macedonia’s main highway and airport, both named for the 4th-century B.C. military conqueror Alexander the Great.
A protest against allowing Skopje to use the name “Macedonia” was scheduled for February 4 in Athens.
A similar rally in the Greek port city of Thessaloniki on January 21 was attended by tens of thousands of people.
At the UN, Macedonia is formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), but the Security Council has agreed that it is a provisional name.
Macedonia has also been admitted to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund under the FYROM moniker.
Most countries, including Russia and the United States, recognize the country’s constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.
With reporting by AP