Friday, January 12, 2007

Great Alexander airport

The provocative decision by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to rename the airport in capital Skopje after Alexander the Great(Aleksantar Veliki) proves that as long as the name dispute with Greece remains unresolved, it will continue to have a deleterious effect on bilateral relations and also influence broader political implications.

Unless an honest and mutually accepted compromise is reached on the name issue between the two neighboring states, the Greek Parliament (whether it is led by a conservative or a Socialist majority) is not going to give FYROM the go-ahead for the much-coveted membership of the NATO alliance.

Similarly, the government in Athens will most likely block the launching of the country’s European Union talks.

In light of the current deadlock on the name issue, which has been a problem for years, the visit of United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz to the two capitals will offer a chance to lift the deadlock.

Skopje’s evasive tactics, which have managed to keep FYROM away from serious negotiations on the name issue, cannot continue. If these tactics go on, they will cause more damage and Skopje may have to pay the costs.

There is simply too much at stake, as FYROM’s membership of the EU and the transatlantic alliance is vital for our neighbor’s very survival.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is today due to urge visiting United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz to resurrect stalled talks aimed at resolving a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the latter’s official name.
Bakoyannis is expected to impress upon Nimetz Athens’s “deep displeasure” with Skopje’s decision last month to name its airport after the ancient Greek warrior Alexander the Great.
Greek diplomats have condemned the move for violating the spirit of an interim agreement and discrediting UN-backed efforts to resolve the dispute.

Bakoyannis intends to send a clear message to Skopje that Athens’s established stances on this issue “are not just formalities” but a true expression of Greece’s position, a diplomatic source told Kathimerini yesterday.

However the foreign minister will also reiterate Athens’s support of FYROM’s accession to the European Union and NATO, as long as a mutually acceptable agreement on the name dispute is reached, ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.

“We have already taken the necessary constructive steps,” he added, in reference to Athens’s acceptance in 2005 of Nimetz’s proposal of “Republika Makedonija-Skopje” as an official name. (The proposal was rejected by FYROM.) Koumoutsakos stressed that the ball is now in FYROM’s court, and that Skopje “should follow the example of Bulgaria and Romania, which are looking toward a common European future instead of taking backward steps and insisting on distorting the past.”

1 comment:

  1. Greece’s stance on FYROM name and the change of name of Skopje airport is crystal clear and it will be presented to Skopje leadership in tomorrow’s talks, stated UN special mediator Mathew Nimic after his meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis today. He also said that the change of the name of Skopje airport was not helping his efforts. Greece’s main stance is that the Balkan people are building their common European future, looking ahead and not back at the distortion of the past, stressed Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos. Nimic met with PASOK President George Papandreou.

    Negotiations to be Affected Negatively
    By Dimitris Alexopoulos

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis and UN special mediator Mathew Nimic focused on the Interim Agreement, Greek-FYROM relations and the change of the name of the Skopje airport at their meeting today.

    Bakoyannis briefed Nimic on the Greek positions, which the special mediator described crystal clear. He also said that he would present them to the Skopje government on Saturday.

    Greece’s main stance, stressed Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos is that the Balkan people are building their common European future, looking ahead and not back at the distortion of the past.

    He also reported that Greece had made many constructive steps for the solution of the name issue, stressing that the recent change of the airport name was contravening the interim agreement.

    From his side, Nimic said that Skopje’s move to name its airport "Alexander the Great" would have a negative effect on the negotiations.

    The UN mediator also met with the PASOK leader. The two men made no statements after their meeting.

    Meanwhile, FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski and Premier Nikola Gruevski held a meeting today in view of Mathew Nimic’s visit to FYROM on Saturday.

    FYROM leadership will tell Nimic that it insists on its firm position on a "double name" and Greece should not regard the change of the airport name as a provocative act or an attempt to arrogate history, since Alexander the Great is a historic personality accepted by mankind.

    Sources: ΝΕΤ-ΝΕΤ 105.8-ΑNA.12 Jan 2007 17:17:00 (Last updated: 12 Jan 2007 19:29:45)


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