By LUKE VARGAS
UNITED NATIONS (TRNS) – In the latest effort to resolve the continuing diplomatic row between Athens and Skopje over the Republic of Macedonia’s country name, American diplomat and U.N. envoy Matthew Nimetz has concluded the latest round of meetings involving the two countries in New York.
The talks follow Nimetz’s latest visit to Greece and Macedonia earlier this year, in which he took a new pulse of the two-decade-long standoff.
Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the talks today, Nimetz said he had offered a concrete set of proposals constructed around his regional meetings, and that both countries were now weighing their next moves. He declined to offer specifics of the proposal, however.
“I tried to refine those ideas [from regional meetings] and give them some new formulations that might meet the issues and objections and problems they had the last time around,” Nimetz said. “Hopefully we get a little closer to some sort of solution here.”
22 years after independence, the Republic of Macedonia is still finding its footing.
Between simmering ethnic tensions to the challenges of economic development, the government in Skopje has a number of pressing issues close at hand, but repeatedly overshadowing those concerns has been persistent diplomatic conflict over a more elementary topic: the country’s name.
After gaining independence with the fall of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Macedonia embarked on a rebranding that included a successful bid for United Nations membership, but the solidification of the country’s foreign policy has not been without significant obstruction summoned by neighboring Greece.
When years of tense negotiations concluded in 1993, the IMF and World Bank settled on recognizing the newly-independent nation by a provisional name, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” (FYROM) and the name has been used by the United Nations and a diverse group of international governing bodies ever since.
Citing the existence of its own administrative region of Macedonia – which encompasses much of ancient Macedon – and concern about the “doctrine of Macedonianism’s” potential to subvert existing territorial claims, the Greek government has stood firm in its opposition to the word Macedonia being included in its neighbor’s name.
In a 2006 publication, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote on its website that, “FYROM is exercising a policy of irredentism and territorial claims fueled by the falsification of history and the usurpation of Greece’s historical and national heritage”
“Obviously, the most important reason for opting to promote the doctrine of Macedonianism at clear variance with the geographical reality of the broader region of Macedonia was his desire to gain access to the Aegean Sea by cultivating the notion of reunification of all Macedonian territories,” the Ministry wrote.
Asked today when and where he hoped to meet again with representatives from both countries, Nimetz would not commit to a location, but he said, “we should be talking within the next two months.”