12 January, 2007
The Greek government on Thursday again outlined its standing positions vis-à-vis the "name issue" still separating Athens and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a day before special United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz returns here for talks with Greek leadership, including Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
Speaking during a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Greece has taken all the "necessary and productive steps towards resolving the out-standing 'name issue' with FYROM."
"We have accepted Mr. Nimetz's proposal of 2005 as a basis for negotiations. We consider that the responsibility (for the on-going impasse) lies with the other side, which even now should follow the example of Bulgaria and Romania, as well as other nations in the Balkans, who are marching ahead with their vision fixed on a common European future and not taking steps backwards, insisting on falsifying the past," Koumoutsakos charged, in a direct reference to an unprecedented decision by FYROM's Cabinet last month to remain Skopje's Petrovec Airport in honour of none other than Alexander the Great.
Koumoutsakos said the decision, "as far as the historical perspective is concerned, is utterly baseless; as far as the political angle is concerned, it is clearly unproductive."
Although Athens and Skopje have achieved remarkable progress in bilateral relations, especially in trade and invest-ments, since signing an UN-mediated "interim agreement" in 1995, the "name issue" remains the only "thorn" blocking full normalization.
Greece and ethnic Greek communities around the world strenuously oppose FYROM's use of the name "Macedonia", as in "Republic of Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons. Moreover, Greece's largest province, which shares borders with southern FYROM, is called Macedonia, the same geographical region that more-or-less corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander.
In response to a question on whether Athens retains the right to veto FYROM's membership in international organisations - more-or-less a reference to Euro-Atlantic entities – Koumou-tsakos merely noted that "Greek policy on the specific issue is absolutely based on what Article XI of the (September 1995) interim agreement foresees".
Moreover, queried on how the Greek side perceives any difference between the "double name" idea proposed by Skopje - which has already been rejected by Athens - and the international status quo at present, whereby Greece, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations recognise the landlocked former Yugoslav republic with the name FYROM, whereas 140 individual governments recognise the country with the name "Republic of Macedonia", Koumoutsakos said:
"There are countries of particular political weight that, regardless of their bilateral recognition policy, are ready to adapt their decision to a resolution that will emanate from the UN process if a mutually acceptable solution is found. The interna-tional landscape is not static, and it's within this environment that Mr. Nimetz's effort is taking place".
Finally, Koumoutsakos said finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue" would have "multiple positive effects" on bilateral relations as well as on regional cooperation and development, while at the same time facilitating FYROM's Euro-Atlantic ambitions "on the basis of good-neighbourly relations and mutual trust, which are EU principles and an obligation of EU candidate states."
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet Friday with UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced on Thursday.
Announcing the foreign minister's schedule for the coming week during a regular press briefing, Koumoutsakos said that Bakoyannis would be in Munich on January 13-14 at the invitation of the Alliance Cultural Group, which is organising a series of lectures on the topic "The future of Europe". Many European personalities will be attending the events, including German foreign minister
During her visit, Bakoyannis will meet with representatives of the Greek community in Germany.
On January 14-16, Bakoyannis will accompany prime minister Costas Karamanlis on his trip to Belgrade (Jan. 14), Lubljana (Jan. 15) for events celebrating Slovenia's accession to the euro-zone, and Belgrade (Jan. 16).
On January 18, Bakoyannis is scheduled to attend the President of the Republic's annual reception in honour of the diplomatic corps.
Source: Athens News Agency