Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told reporters on Thursday, January 4 that he thinks “2018 will be the year when foreign policy issues that have been stuck in the mud for decades will be resolved.”
When pressed for additional information about the decades-long conflict between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he responded “On the name issue, the government is negotiating and supports a compound name that will be comprehensively used throughout,” without elaborating.
The small land-locked ex-Yugoslav republic of about 2 million people declared independence in 1991 and named itself the “Republic of Macedonia.” Greece has objected to the name it clearly identifies as a name from its own past, as well as the name of its existing northern province and has considered the country’s use of the name and symbols as objectionable.
A compromise name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” allowed the country to enter the United Nations. But since then, dozens of nations– including the United States during the Presidency of George Bush in 2004, have recognized the nation as the “Republic of Macedonia.”
But Greece has withheld support for the nation’s further integration into international bodies, including NATO and the European Union, until it agrees to change its name to one it says does not violate or infringe upon Greek history and territory.
In December, news reports shared leaked information that the current Greek Government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, had agreed on the name “New Macedonia” for the country. That information was never denied or confirmed, but it did lead to numerous public statements and dialogue from both sides about the willingness both from Athens and Skopje to solve the issue.
The junior partner in the coalition government of Tsipras, Panos Kammenos and his ANEL right wing party had previously ruled out any use of the name “Macedonia” in a solution.
That position, however, seems to be changing, according to a report in the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, which indicated a possible shift in their position.
Kathimerini states that Kammenos “hinted on Thursday that he may have shifted slightly from his hardline stance on the decades-old name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).”
Speaking to reporters on Thursday following a meeting on the issue chaired by Tsipras, Kammenos reiterated that the use of the “Greek term Macedonia” is a non-starter and expressed hope that “any solution given is one that will safeguard national interests and will be accepted by all in the political world.”
However, Kathimerini claims that analysts said this doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of his acceptance of a composite name that would include a Slavic spelling of the name “Macedonia.”
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