FYROM foreign minister visits Athens as international media talk up referendum solution.
According to a report by The Guardian newspaper this week, Nikola Gruevski, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed ‘Republic of Macedonia’, says he is open to change his country’s name – a step that could end the 24-year dispute with Greece over the naming issue.
Mr Gruevski was described as willing to reopen dialogue with Athens on the issue – providing that any potential name change is put to a plebiscite in the former Yugoslav republic.
“We are ready to discuss, to open dialogue with them, and to find some solution,” Gruevski told The Guardian.
“We would like as soon as possible to go to dialogue with Greece to find a solution, and if we find a solution we have to go to the citizens and organise a referendum,” Mr Gruevski said.
“Through dialogue we have to find some solution, and after that to ask the citizens: is this right or not right.”
The long-running dispute has prompted Greece to consistently block its northern landlocked neighbour from joining the EU and NATO.
Australia continues to apply the United Nations resolution passed in 1993 that the country should be referred to as ‘FYROM’ until Athens and Skopje found agreement on a new name.
Previously deadlocked negotiations brokered by the UN between the two countries have included proposals for qualifying words such as ‘upper’ or ‘new’ being applied to the term ‘Macedonia’ – but no wording has yet been acceptable to both parties.
Ahead of a visit to Athens on Thursday, Skopje’s foreign minister, Nikola Poposki, told Kathimerini that “conditions are more than ripe” for the name dispute to be finally resolved.
Many believe the visit, the first in 15 years, suggests a compromise may be close.
Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias ended an 11-year embargo with a visit to Skopje in June, when he said that he wished “all our neighbours to be members of the European Union … because our own country, to great degree, is dependent on what happens in the Balkans as a whole”.
The Guardian story suggested that members of the leftist Tsipras government are keen to finalise a solution which some in SYRIZA blame on right wing nationalism.
Having previously warned that no new name for FYROM could include the word ‘Macedonia’, Athens conceded in 2007, saying that it would give its consent to a composite name in which it could feature.
A senior Greek foreign ministry source reportedly told media: “We have gone the extra mile. We’ve proposed a composite name with geographical qualifications for all uses.”