UN mediator tables new proposal for Macedonia's name
Macedonia expects a key Commission report to be tabled today (16 April) to confirm that the country is ready to begin accession negotiations. In the meantime, a UN mediator has tabled a new proposal for a name that would be acceptable to Greece.
The latest suggestion of UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz is that the country to be called “the Upper Republic of Macedonia,” media reported.
Seen from Athens, the official name used by Skopje – the Republic of Macedonia – is an open challenge to the Greek region of Macedonia (see background).
The Greek veto over the name issue prevented Macedonia from joining NATO in 2008 and from starting accession negotiations, even though the country achieved candidate status in 2005.
According to reports quoting the Nimetz proposal, the new name would be used during the negotiations on Macedonia's accession to the EU, which would take at least seven to eight years. After that, a referendum would be held and the citizens of Macedonia would be asked to vote on the two issues: joining the EU and changing the name to the Upper Republic of Macedonia.
Also, Macedonia would enter an amendment into its Constitution that would read as follows: "From the day the Republic of Macedonia joins the EU, the international name of the country will be the Upper Republic of Macedonia and will be used in all languages - except in official languages of the country."
Greece has not reacted to the new proposal. According to some reports, Athens would like the geographical determinant “Upper” to be placed before the word 'Macedonia', the name being “Republic of Upper Macedonia”.
According to reports, Skopje and Athens are expected to state their position on the proposal in the coming days and reach an agreement by mid-May.
But Macedonia still runs the risk that Bulgaria would veto the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia.
In November, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said that his country cannot grant an EU certificate to the actions of the government in Skopje which is systematically employing “an ideology of hate towards Bulgaria.”
Macedonia has also tried badmouthing Bulgaria. The most striking example is the film “Third halftime” that depicts wartime Bulgarians as fascists, despite the Bulgarian government's decision to refuse Nazi orders to deport the 48,000 Jews in the country to concentration camps.
A Macedonia-sponsored exhibition of mediaeval manuscripts in Brussels recently infuriated Bulgaria. The manuscripts, which mention Bulgaria and the Bulgarian language only, have been highlighted as Macedonian manuscripts.
Four rounds of talks were held between Sofia and Skopje in an effort to agree on series of measures for improving relations between the two countries. According to information obtained by the Bulgarian national radio, Bulgaria is not satisfied with the results obtained.
Macedonia declared independence from the dissolving Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991.
The country is an ethnic mosaic. Slavic Macedonians represent the largest group (64% of the population). Ethnic Albanians are the biggest minority (25%), with Turks (3%) and Roma (1.9%) also present.
Of all the hurdles standing in the way of Macedonia's EU accession, the so-called name dispute with Greece appears to be the biggest.
Seen from Athens, the official name used by Skopje – the Republic of Macedonia – is an open challenge to the Greek region of Macedonia. In reprisal, Greece vowed to veto Macedonia's participation in international organisations, including the EU, until the issue is resolved.