Friday

16th Nov 2018

Mounting pressure to end Macedonian negotiations with Greece

  • The name dispute has stalled Macedonia's EU bid (Photo: Zlatevska DNEVNIK)

Macedonia is to break off negotiations with Greece if its national identity continues to be disrespected, media close to the government in Skopje have reported.

The reports echo public anger over the disappearance of the term 'Macedonian' from the European Commission's latest assessment of the Balkan country's progress towards EU integration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

There was no official confirmation of the end of negotiations but members of the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation–Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) said that the idea was being considered.

Last week, Macedonia noticed that the latest progress report by the European Commission no longer uses the term 'Macedonian'. Instead of mentioning a 'Macedonian language' it refers to a "state language".

This prompted outrage throughout the country. President Gjorgje Ivanov summoned the EU ambassador in Macedonia for an explanation. During a parliamentary debate on the progress report, EU ambassador Erwan Fouere apologised for the use of the term "state language", qualifying it as "a misunderstanding".

There was no change in the commission's policy, which follows recommendations by the United Nations (UN), Mr Fouere said.

"If you ask me what the official language of the country is, I'd say: Macedonian. The EU is not involved in changing the identity of people. Identity is something sacred and it should not be negotiable," Mr Fouere said.

The adjective 'Macedonian' has turned into a particularly difficult stumbling block in Skopje's name dispute with its southern neighbour. Greece is blocking Macedonia's entry into both the EU and Nato by asking it to change its name.

Greece's northern province is called Macedonia and some Greeks from this region identify themselves as 'Macedonian'. Athens would like to make a clear distinction between the names of the Greek region and the independent country.

The dispute has continued since 1995, when both countries signed an interim agreement under UN auspices to search for a permanent solution to the name issue. The agreement stipulates that Macedonia will be referred to as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', or FYROM, until a definitive name is found.

So far this has not happened. Skopje would agree to compromise on the name itself but insists on guarantees that its people and language can continue to use the term 'Macedonian'.

Athens insists that a geographical modifier should be erga omnes – used by the whole world including international organisations. Skopje has refused the latter because so far over 120 countries have recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia'.

Following Mr Fouere's remark, Macedonian media discovered that the UN has also stopped mentioning a Macedonian language. This prompted reports about an imminent break-up of the talks with Greece unless the term 'Macedonian' is at least re-introduced into official UN terminology.

The foreign ministry in Skopje sent a note to the cabinet of the UN Secretary General demanding that the name of the language be re-introduced.

In the meantime, the Social Democrat opposition has criticised the government's policy, recalling that the term 'Macedonian' had already disappeared from the commission's reports back in 2006 when the conservative VMRO-DPMNE came to power. The opposition said that the government had engaged in unwarranted provocation of Greece by renaming Skopje airport after 'Alexander the Great', the emperor considered by Greece to be a key figure of its historical heritage.

They called on VMRO-DPMNE to solve the name dispute without losing the identity issue. "If they don't know how to do that, than they should resign," said Ljubomir Frckovski, a former Social Democrat presidential candidate.

In the meantime, the protests continue. One partner of the ruling coalition announced a petition to the UN, and activists have declared themselves ready to start a hunger strike. Blogs and social networks are full of negative reactions urging the government to stop negotiating with Greece. The Macedonian Writers Association has launched an appeal for the protection of the Macedonian language and identity.

No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

British PM Theresa May battles for survival as she faces calls for her resignation and the rebellion of several ministers who resigned over the draft Brexit deal - which the EU is preparing to sign later this month.

Analysis

Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

The main points of the Brexit withdrawal deal between London and Brussels dissected. Although the EU is preparing to sign the agreement, the UK government has been rocked by resignations since its publication less than 24 hours ago.

Opinion

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  2. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  3. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  4. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  5. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  6. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  7. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  8. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us