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22nd Mar 2019

Greece floats solution for Macedonia name dispute

  • The name 'Northern Macedonia' might be acceptable to Athens (Photo: Aster-oid)

A senior Greek official has indicated that Athens is ready to accept the name 'Northern Macedonia' for its northern neighbour, in a development that could bring an end to the 19-year-old title dispute that has hampered Skopje's EU membership ambitions.

"The name 'Northern Macedonia' fits with the settlement as envisaged" by Athens, Greek deputy foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas told national media on Monday (5 April).

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Should Macedonian leader Nikola Gruevski reject this proposal "he will have to explain to the Macedonian people why he is depriving them of their European prospects," Mr Droutsas added.

Currently referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in official terminology, Athens is strongly opposed to a shortening of the country's name to simply "Macedonia," a title already used by a northern province in Greece.

The jealous guarding of the regional name has lead Athens to campaign against international recognition of its northern neighbour under the title of Macedonia, an independent nation following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991.

The Greek administration also insists that the issue must be resolved before Skopje can enter into EU accession discussions, a process that requires unanimous support from the bloc's full complement of members.

An indication that a potential solution was being worked on came in late February when senior UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said Athens and Skopje shared grounds for resolving the dispute, suggesting any future name for FYROM could include a "geographical determinant."

Greece's debt crisis

While a resolution to the Macedonian name dispute is important to Greece, Athens' attention has been focused on its ongoing debt crisis in recent months.

EU leaders brokered a twin-track deal before the Easter break to provide financial support to the Hellenic state, together with the IMF, should Athens fail to raise sufficient capital on international markets to service upcoming debt obligations.

But on Monday reports emerged that Greece is now having second thoughts about IMF involvement, concerned that the Washington-based lender will impose overly tough conditions in return for aid. As a result, it now wants to amend the deal reached at last month's EU summit, removing any financial contribution from the IMF, suggest the reports.

"The reason is that since the summit, (Greek) prime minister (George Papandreou) has been receiving information from the IMF about the possible measures and reforms it would be asking in exchange for financial support," a senior Greek official told Market News International.

"The measures are tough and might cause social and political unrest. After that, various cabinet members voiced their opposition to the IMF contribution," the source added.

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