Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

UN court: Greece broke the law in Macedonia name dispute

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday (5 December) said Greece broke international law in vetoing Macedonia's entry to Nato due to a bilateral name dispute.

"Greece, by objecting to the admission of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Nato, has breached its obligation [under an interim accord signed in September 1995]," the Hague-based court said in a press release. The 1995 agreement stipulates that Athens is not allowed to use the name dispute to block Macedonia's accession to international organisations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Alexander the Great: the root of the dispute between Skopje and Athens (Photo: wikipedia)

Ever since Macedonia declared its independence in the aftermath of Yugoslavia's breakup in 1991, Greece has refused to recognise the name "Republic of Macedonia" claiming that it refers to one of its own provinces and is linked to its heritage.

Macedonia was accepted into the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), pending the resolution of the dispute.

Skopje has also crossed red lines in the 1995 agreement under which it should refrain from "provocations" - its government named a highway and an airport "Alexander the Great" after the ancient king whom Macedonians claim to be their ancestor.

Monday's ICJ ruling does not express an opinion on how to resolve the name dispute. But it gives Macedonia political ammunition to press for opening EU accession talks, which have been hled up for the past two years for the same reasons as the Nato problem.

EU foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels were to look at Macedonia as part of a larger debate on enlargement. But Greece is not expected to back down.

"We think it's long overdue for the membership negotiations to start. They can start as 'former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia' and then end the negotiations when the dispute is solved ... But Greece does not agree to that," one EU diplomat told this website.

"The bigger the austerity squeeze, the more people will try to defend what they perceive as a matter of national pride," another EU diplomat said, calling the whole situation "ridiculous."

The draft conclusions for the EU summit on Friday envisage starting membership talks with Macedonia "when appropriate" - meaning when the name dispute is solved.

For its part, the Greek foreign ministry on Monday said the ICJ verdict "does not address the issue of the difference of the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, confirming that this difference should be resolved ... through negotiations under the auspices of the UN."

It blamed Skopje, noting "this indirectly calls on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to demonstrate a spirit of compromise so that negotiations may lead to a mutually acceptable solution."

Prime Minister George Papademos warned in a statement that "continuing provocations do not contribute to the consolidation of good neighbourly relations and mutual confidence ... Our country is ready to continue the negotiations in order to solve the name issue."

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday repeated that Macedonia will be invited to join "as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached."

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.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ