Macedonia’s NATO membership hinges on name dispute talks with Greece

Macedonia’s NATO membership hinges on name dispute talks with Greece

Foreign ministers from Greece and Macedonia will meet with a UN special envoy in Skopje to continue discussions on a decades-old name dispute.

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Photo: NLO Skopje

Today, foreign ministers from Greece and Macedonia will meet with a UN special envoy in Skopje to continue discussions on a decades-old name dispute.

Since 1991, Greece has insisted that Macedonia (the country) change its official name to distinguish it from a province of northern Greece of the same name. Athens fears its northern neighbour’s current name, along with several nationalistic references in the state’s constitution, are a threat to Greece’s sovereignty.

Crucially, Greece has conditioned its approval of Macedonia’s membership of the EU on an official name change.

Over the past few months, negotiations over the name appear to have progressed, as Macedonia’s leadership has expressed a willingness to adopt a name change to maximise its chances of EU membership.

However, a deal is still elusive. To satisfy Athens, Macedonia must amend its constitution via referendum, which Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov does not support. Indeed, with polls swinging between a plurality in favour of name change to a supermajority against, there’s no guarantee such a vote would pass even if put to the people.

Ultimately, EU accession would effect greater security to a region still recovering from the series of internal armed conflicts that wracked countries like Macedonia in the 1990s.

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