SKOPJE, FYROM – United Nations Matthew Nimetz, who has gotten nowhere in 18 years in trying to settle a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s official name, said he doesn’t expect any breakthroughs anytime soon.
That assessment came in FYROM’s capital on July 3 after meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
Nimetz, a personal envoy of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Skopje and Athens must find ways to intensify efforts to resolve their dispute, the Voice of America reported, but said now’s now the time without explaining when it would be since the feud has raged for more than two decades.
“We have a new government here and a new context in the region,” said Nimetz, who rarely is involved anymore in talks and last visited FYROM three years earlier. Now he said Zaev and Dimitrov are taking the issue seriously with Greece blocking their country’s hopes of getting into NATO and the European Union.
Greece objects to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia, saying it implies irredentist and territorial ambitions even though a Greek government almost 28 years ago allowed the use of the word in the acronym for FYROM.
Years of talks have offered geographical compromises but always including the word Macedonia which is what headline writers use instead more cumbersome versions.
Earlier in June, Dimitrov said his country was willing to talk about taking on yet another new provisional name if it will lead to Greece withdrawing its veto of the country’s NATO bid.
“I will ask Greece to reconsider what kind of neighbor they want — do they want a stable, friendly country that offers hope for democracy and justice?”Dimitrov told The Financial Times in an interview. “If we are a good neighbor, then hopefully political forces in Greece will realize this is a historic opportunity,” he added.
Greece has also vehemently denounced FYROM for lifting ancient Greek history in order to justify its claim to the name Macedonia.
The country’s former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski caused a national outcry in Greece when he renamed airports and motorways after Alexander the Great, the warrior king who created an empire stretching from Greece to India.
The name dispute has also soured relations from time to time between the countries even though trade goes on.
Speaking during a press conference in Brussels on June 12, Zaev said Greece is a friend to his country and said forging closer links will create a “more positive ambiance” for talks to overcome the “name issue”.