European Politics and Institutions

Balkans Forum

Macedonia or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia? - Time to solve the name game

20 December 2011

Busting “the myths that dominate the debate” is essential if the impasse in FYROM’s NATO and EU accession bids is to be broken, said Nikola Poposki, foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

“At the source of all the troubles is the notion that Macedonia represents a threat to Greece’s security and territorial integrity. This has led to blockages and obstructions,” Poposki argued.

Insisting that FRYOM poses “no rational threat” to Greece, Poposki said “our military capability is Greek and the only invasion we envisage is that of holidaymakers in both directions in July and August. So let’s bust that myth”.

“Macedonia fulfils all the requirements of being an independent country. The blockages are an immense frustration for us,” he said.

 “Deciding to freeze our EU accession negotiations over the name dispute is illogical and without precedent,” Poposki declared. He pointed out that Croatia had already concluded EU membership negotiations, and therefore was not isolated by the international community despite having bilateral disputes of its own.

“We want bilateral disputes to be dealt with as part of the EU accession process,” the foreign minister stated.

He argued that “there is no logical reason why the name dispute should hold up our EU accession process”. “On the contrary, dialogue would increase transparency, create positive incentives and boost enthusiasm,” he claimed.

Another myth Poposki was keen to bust was the belief that “avoiding difficult issues makes them disappear”. “We all put difficult files in our to-do trays. But the uncertainty of the outcome in the long term should never be a reason to put things aside,” he said.

“Let’s get up and running, and then address the challenges,” he urged, warning that “avoiding uncomfortable issues doesn’t allow for progress: on the contrary, the stakes increase and things get more difficult”.

At present FYROM and Greece tend to put one another down, which creates frustrations and doesn’t create a positive atmosphere, the foreign minister lamented.

 “We all aspire to join the international family. Let’s deal with common assets and common ground,” the foreign minister said, declaring: “If I were a Greek decision-maker, nothing would comfort me more than being surrounded only by NATO members. What could be more comfortable than that?”

 “We need to deal with realities, not myths, because after 10 years we’re no closer to a solution,” Poposki said. “What about doing a cost-benefit analysis of Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession? I can’t see any costs, but the benefits for all are huge,” he added.

He concluded by calling for “a change of mentality”. “Stop taking things out of the box that make us uncomfortable. Instead let’s try to move forward in a new spirit,” he urged. 

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