Macedonia must not be dictated terms that go against the dignity of its people, the country’s president said ahead of UN talks with neighbouring Greece over the country’s disputed name due to resume today.
In an interview for the online edition of the German newspaper “Der Spiegel” last Friday, president Georgi Ivanov reveals that the country is seriously considering a referendum on the name issue should any compromise be reached with Athens.
“We are negotiating with parties in our country about the possibility of a referendum, since our citizens must approve the decision over a future name,” Ivanov said.
Country’s opposition is against a referendum, arguing that this is just an attempt to avoid responsibility taking hard decisions. They warn that an unsuccessful referendum would send the name talks into further gridlock.
Athens claims that Skopje’s formal name, Macedonia, implies territorial claims towards Greece’s own northern province with the same name. The long standing row escalated last year when Greece used it as an excuse to block Macedonia’s NATO accession.
“The solution must not violate the honor and sentiment,” of Macedonia’s people, Ivanov stated. “Over 120 countries have recognized the name Macedonia. Greece wants us to give up our name and to be called Northern, Upper or Slavic Macedonians,” he argues.
The UN mediator in the long standing dispute, Matthew Nimetz, is expected to meet with countries’ name negotiators Zoran Jolevski and Adamantios Vassilakis today in Geneva. He may visit Skopje and Athens in early July.
The UN talks were stalled for about six month due to elections in both countries.
Ivanov claims that Athens provoked the recent Macedonian boom of raising statues and renaming roads and sport arenas after the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, whose origin is also deputed between the two countries. He says that this was only a way of showing “defiance and revolt” over Greece’s blockade in NATO.
Ivanov concedes that a solution to the long lasting dispute is needed but that reaching one will be very complicated.