Greece to Veto Macedonia's EU, NATO Accession

Views on BG | November 7, 2004, Sunday // 00:00

By Irina Gelevska

Brussels - Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis threatened today that Greece will veto Macedonia's possible entry into EU and NATO, if the two countries reach no deal on the change of its constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia.

"The possibility of Macedonia acceding to the EU and NATO is not contemplated without a mutually agreed solution," said Mr. Karamanlis to the EU leaders attending the summit in Brussels.

Greek threats came as a consequence of the U.S. recognition of Macedonia under its constitutional name, announced yesterday. About a hundred countries, including Russia and China, all other neighbors (Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia & Montenegro, Turkey, and EU member Slovenia, have done the same on bilateral basis.

Macedonia is hoping for an invitation to join NATO in 2006, and full membership in 2007. Macedonian leaders announced this optimistic schedule during the last NATO summit in Istanbul.

Macedonia signed an Agreement for stabilization and association with EU in 2001, and formally applied for EU membership earlier this year. At the moment, Macedonian state institutions are answering the EU Questionnaire for the candidacy [due early next year].

If Greece blocks Macedonia's entry in EU and NATO, that will mean repeating of history again, because Athens has already blocked UN membership for its northern neighbor.

On June 27, 1992, Greece demanded from Macedonia to change its constitutional name saying that the word "Macedonia" in it is not acceptable.

On April 8, 1993, United Nations admitted Macedonia under the provisional name "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia)" as Greece demanded.

On February 16, 1994, Greece imposed economic sanctions, demanding Macedonia to change its flag and Constitution in which the country is named as Republic of Macedonia.

On September 13, 1995, under UN auspices, Greece and Macedonia signed an Accord on ending Greek sanctions in exchange for a new flag and a changed Constitution [incl. renouncing the care for the Macedonian minority abroad]. The two countries then started negations over the name dispute. In November the same year, Greece lifted the veto and Macedonia joined the NATO Programme "Parthership for Peace."

Since than, Greece has become the most important business partner to Macedonia. Many Greek companies have bought former state companies in Macedonia, such as the oil refinery Okta, the Skopje baking company Zhito Luks, marble mine in Prilep, etc.

Macedonia will hold a Referendum against the Government's law for new territorial organization this Sunday, 7th of November. At the same time at noon in Thessalonica (Solun on Macedonian language), the Greek nationalists will protest against the US decision to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name, in front of the monument of Alexander The Great, the emperor of Ancient Macedonia, for whom they claim was Greek by origin.

Macedonian sources do not consider ancient history as the base of this 13 years old dispute between Greece and Macedonia. Most Macedonians think Greece is afraid of the return of the numerous ethnic Macedonians who were forced to leave their homes due to ethnic cleansing committed by Greek regime during the Greek Civil War (1946-49). Greece imposed ethnically discriminatory legislation to prevent the return of these exiles, and fears the consequences of if these people request reparations and access to their lost property.

Many of the refugees' properties have been appropriated by Greek settlers brought Turkey in the "exchange of populations" programs initiated in the first half of twentieth century. In spite of recommendations by international bodies, Greece does not recognize the ethnic Macedonian minority within its borders.

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