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Athens is in no rush in Macedonian name dispute

Monday, June 26, 2017

Subject

The prospects for resolving the long-standing dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s official name.

Significance

Western countries hope that by anchoring Macedonia to Euro-Atlantic institutions they will strengthen the stability of the region and prevent Russian encroachment. Greece, which has blocked Macedonia’s accession to the EU and NATO over what to call the country, holds the key to what happens next. The government just formed in Macedonia has expressed willingness to join NATO under the provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; this would be formally in accordance with the Interim Accord between the two countries of September 1995 and the International Court of Justice ruling of December 2011. However, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has been quick to reject this.

Impacts

  • US and EU support, hopes of EU and NATO accession and anti-social-deprivation measures will make the government in Macedonia more popular.
  • If the Zaev government does not agree a quick compromise with Greece, it will allay domestic concerns about its patriotic credentials.
  • Relations with Bulgaria are expected to improve quickly, removing Sofia’s objections to Macedonia starting EU accession talks.
  • Skopje's new Social Democrat government will likely capitalise on all this by strengthening its position in the forthcoming local elections.
  • If it wins most major cities it may be tempted to call snap elections, hoping to consolidate its position with more seats in parliament.
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