Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Greek government collapse not helping Macedonia

The Greek government collapse and the advent of a new team of technocrats demanded by international lenders cast bleak perspectives for solving a long-standing dispute with neighbouring Macedonia over the country's name, say politicians dealing with the region.

In his farewell speech in the Greek parliament last week, outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou said "the new government must and can move immediately for the settling of the name issue." But observers are sceptical that this will be the case. Greece is opposing to the former Yugoslav state's name of Macedonia, which coincides with one of its historic regions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Macedonia's nationalistic drive is not helping either (Photo: Dnevnik/Macedonia)

"A solution to the name issue will be definitely not on the top 3 of the priority list of the technical transition government. The debt crisis will be paramount," German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, who drafts the Parliament's reports on Macedonia told this website. In his view, the ball is in Skopje's court to "take actively initiative" to come up with a compromise solution.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, a former mediator after the Balkan wars in the mid-90s, on Monday (7 November) tweeted: "Worry the government collapse in Athens will also stop discreet talks on solving Macedonia name dispute with Skopje. Can this be prevented?"

Apart from having pressing economic and social issues to deal with, the new Greek transitional government - still in the making - will also be under a stronger influence from the hardline nationalistic opposition led by Antonis Samaras, whose stance is that Macedonia should change its name to something else because "our Macedonia" is and "exclusively Greek and blessed place."

A verdict expected in December by the international tribunal in the Hague should be an opportunity to finally settle the 13-year long dispute, said Papandreou. The case was lodged by Skopje accusing Athens of having breached an international agreement when it blocked Macedonia's accession to Nato, in 2008.

Greece claims that the former Yugoslav republic also violated the agreement when it started naming highways and airports with the name of Alexander, an ancient Greek king and re-writing history by claiming he was Macedonian. The Hague verdict, if not postponed further - as it already had been expected in September - is however unlikely to give a clear-cut stance on who is right.

On the EU side, Greece is blocking the start of membership negotiations with Macedonia, which the European Commission recommended already in 2009. A new meeting in December by EU ministers will look at the issue again, but it is unlikely to move forward unless something happens on the name front.

The EU is not directly involved in mediating the name issue, which is done by the United Nations. According to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, no meeting has been organised on the issue since summer, mainly due to Athens' other, more pressing, problems.

But in an interview with Radio Free Europe, the new foreign minister, Nikola Popovski, said his country does not want the EU or any international arbitration on the issue, which would be binding for the two parts - a signal that Skopje is not advancing on the matter either.

EU links Serbia's candidate status to Kosovo talks

Serbia will win EU candidate status if it improves relations with Kosovo. Montenegro can start membership talks but only with the most difficult chapters first, the EU has said in its latest report on accession.

Macedonia prepares for politically sensitive census

Albanian opposition groups in Macedonia may boycott the national census next year because they believe it will underestimate the real number of Albanian citizens. The 10-yearly census is a politically sensitive issue.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal

Spain would be prepared to recognise Kosovo if it clinched a deal with Serbia, Madrid has said, in the first positive signal of its kind since EU-brokered talks resumed.

Opinion

How enlargement is running out of steam

While the EU's enlargement progress reports have moved closer to capturing the problems of the region, they are still lagging behind in capturing the decline of democracy and rule of law in most of the region.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Giuseppe Conte: scapegoat or Italy's most cunning politician?
  2. Borrell to meet Lavrov, while Navalny behind bars
  3. Too few central and eastern Europeans at top of EU
  4. Rift widens on 'returns' deadline in EU migration pact
  5. EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map
  6. Migrants in Bosnia: a disaster foretold on EU doorstep
  7. Navalny protests sharpen EU sanctions talks
  8. Why Russia politics threaten European security

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us