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The progressive route to compromise

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Message Claras
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Article originally published in the Neos Kosmos English Edition (Greek-Australian Weekly).

During his last visit to Athens and Skopje, the UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz put on the table a new proposal for the naming dispute: a commonly accepted solution based on the name 'Republic of Northern Macedonia'.

Obviously, it is not an ideal proposition, but it looks to be a realistic one. And as long as diplomacy is the "art of compromise", we should see the new Nimetz offer as a half-full glass. The new proposal consists a good basis for negotiations over the name and could be accepted by the Greek side, under three specific and clear preconditions:

Firstly, it's well defined that any commonly-accepted name between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be for all uses without exceptions; for both the Greece-FYROM bilateral communication and Skopje's international relations. That is an infrangible prerequisite for any agreement.

The persistence of FYROM's nationalistic goverment in a "double-name" solution is simply unacceptable as long as it ridicules the meaning of International Law.

Secondly, along with any compromise over the name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia must undertake the distinct obligation to adapt it's Constitution to the new situation. There must be some changes which will provide the constitutional guarantees that Skopje does not have any irredentist and territorial aspirations over northern Greece.

Let me remind us that the preamble of FYROM's Constitution defines the Republic as a departure from the "...historic decisions of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the People's Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM)...". The ASNOM had called the Slav-Macedonians of Bulgaria and Greece to unite under Tito's rule. That could be interpreted as a concealed message for future chauvinist demands over the territory of Greek Macedonia.

Furthermore, articles 3 and 74 refer to the possibility of a change in the existing borders of the Republic, while article 49 is written in a shadowy language creating suspicion over it's meaning. The needed changes in FYROM's Constitution are indissolubly connected with regional stability in the Balkans.

The 1995 Interim Accord calls for an end to "hostile activities and propaganda" and Skopje's leadership has to respect that, complying with the need for good and peaceful neighboring relations. It's more than clear that a country which aspires to be a member of the Euro-Atlantic Institutions (NATO and EU) cannot, in any case, hide territorial or chauvinistic demands under the carpet.

Thirdly, the solution in the naming-dispute must be accompanied by an initiative from the side of the UN Security Council. As long as the UN sponsors the negotiations between Greece and FYROM, it must guarantee that any compromise between the two sides will be respected by the International Community.

In practical terms that means that the UN Security Council will strongly advise all organisation's members (including the USA) to recognize FYROM with the commonly-accepted name. Therefore, those states which officially recognize Skopje's Constitutional name will have to adjust their diplomatic relations to the new situation.

That compromise is a fair deal for Greece and a historical opportunity for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There is no doubt that, with the precondition of a settlement in the name, FYROM's position is within the EU and NATO. We need a stable state entity in our northern borders, based on the triangle of "safety, stability, development".

For that, Greece can play a progressive role. I very much agree with the idea, originally expressed by ex-Minister and PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos, that Greece could offer to Skopje the acceleration of it's EU membership perspective in exchange for a fair compromise over the name. We say to FYROM that "we can support your EU candidacy, setting it as a priority within Brussels, but with the prerequisite of your good-will spirit in the negotiations process". Fair enough.

What we are still waiting for is that "good-will spirit" from Skopje's side. The leadership of FYROM must understand that supranationalism and intrasigence aren't good advisors in Foreign Policy issues. The sooner they get the message, the better for their ambitious Euro-Atlantic perspective.

 

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Aris Claras is a writer based in Greece.

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