Macedonia Should Become 'Northern Macedonia' to End Name Dispute - ICG
Macedonia's authorities should take decisive steps to end the country's notorious name dispute with Greece by adopting the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia", the International Crisis Group (ICG) says in a report.
The report of the ICG, a Brussels-based NGO, is dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended the 2001 armed insurgency by Macedonia's ethnic Albanians.
The International Crisis Group is concerned that the failure to resolve the Macedonia name dispute has the potential to destabilize not just Macedonia but also the entire region.
The notorious name dispute between Macedonia and Greece has been going on since the former declared independence in 1991. Greece is concerned that the recognition of Macedonia's name could allow it to have territorial claims for it since much of northern Greece is also in the geographic region of Macedonia. The dispute has led Greece to technically block Maccedonia's accession to NATO and the EU; it has been the reason that Macedonia is a member of the UN under the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."
"As Crisis Group has repeatedly argued, the dispute risks derailing the strategies of the EU and NATO to stabilize Macedonia and the wider region through integration and enlargement," the report says warning that Macedonia's ethnic Albanians are "especially frustrated" at successive governments' inability to resolve the name issue.
It stresses that Years of UN-mediated negotiations have made little progress, and further talks have not been scheduled.
The ICG points out that Macedonia in particular appears to be waiting for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict in the case it brought for alleged violations of the 1995 Interim Agreement that regulates bilateral relations with Greece in the absence of a name agreement.
The Brussels-based think-tank is further concerned that the financial crisis in Greece and popular resentment of austerity measures there do not make it easy for the Greek leadership to focus on resolving the dispute.
This is why it encourages Macedonia to seek decisive progress so as not to miss the opportunity to get the go-ahead for membership negotiations when the EU makes new enlargement decisions in December.
"Skopje should accept the UN mediator's proposal for using "Republic of Northern Macedonia" or a similar formula with a geographic qualifier as the name of the country for all international purposes; promptly after it does so, NATO should admit Macedonia, and the EU should begin membership negotiations," the International Crisis Group says.
It further urges Athens to "acknowledge the national identity and language of its northern neighbor as "Macedonian", and Skopje to "reverse its decision to rename its airport after Alexander the Great and desist from similar moves certain to provoke Athens."
In commenting on the UN proposal for Macedonia to adopt the name of "Republic of Northern Macedonia", the report of the International Crisis Group makes no mention of Bulgaria, and the fact that the northeastern part of the historical and geographic region of Macedonia is part of Bulgaria.
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