by Aggelos Skordas
Three years ago Greece and FYROM failed to reach a commonly accepted solution over the second’s constitutional name. Today, Skopje’s newly elected government, socialist Zoran Zaev -has adopted a relatively moderate stance towards the issue that has little to do with his nationalist predecessor Nikola Gruevski’s policy, which widened the split between the two neighbouring countries- appears ready to resume talks with Greece in an attempt to resolve the longstanding diplomatic dispute.
According to a statement issued by the United Nations, Matthew Nimetz, personal envoy of the Secretary-General, has scheduled meetings with representatives of the governments of the Hellenic Republic and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Adamantios Vassilakis and Vasko Naumovski respectively, in Brussels, on 11 and 12 December 2017, as part of the United Nations-led efforts to assist the sides in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue. Amid increased hopes for a settlement, as FYROM appears ready for a historic compromise that would allow it to join NATO and the European Union, both diplomats are accompanied by representatives of their country’s foreign ministers for the new round of talks.
From Belgrade, where he attended the Second Tetramer Summit of Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras underlined that “2018 could be the year during which we could have a positive development in a chronic problem if the new government of Skopje decides to take real steps forward”. Moreover, he urged FYROM to abolish “an unnecessary and irrational rhetoric”, narrating they are the only descendant of the Ancient Macedonians and Alexander the Great, and at the same time accept a solution mutually accept solution.
On his behalf, Zaev underlined that an agreement acceptable for both sides must be reached during this round of talks. “The meeting will be part of the efforts aimed at helping the sides to find an acceptable solution on the name contest. The government will inform the media on every development regarding this issue”, FYROM’s Foreign Ministry pressed.
The proposed names could include geographical references such as “Northern Macedonia” or “Upper Macedonia” in order to be clearly distinct from Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, although it is not yet clear if Nimetz has presented additional proposals. Greece’s main argument is that if the country’s constitutional name should not imply territorial claims.