Macedonia Mulls “Name” Concession

Skopje will give up on the so called double name formula if Athens stops disputing the existence of a Macedonian identity, unnamed Macedonian diplomats told local media.

This will be the message that Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki will convey to his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas at their meeting on Thursday in London.

Skopje last week sent a letter to Athens asking for the meeting.

Although the Greek Foreign Ministry recently said that it still has not accepted the invitation, unnamed Macedonian Foreign Ministry sources say for the daily the meeting will happen.

The current gridlock in the name talks is largely due to the inability of both sides to make concessions. While Skopje insists on a double name formula, which envisages that Macedonia will change its name only in correspondence with Greece and retain its constitutional name in all other international fora, Athens insists on one name that would be used by all countries.

Skopje also insists on preserving the name ”Macedonian” for both the language and nationality of its people.

Milososki, on a visit to Slovenia on Monday and Tuesday to open the Macedonian embassy in Ljubljana and visit his Slovenian counterpart, said his country is doing everything in its power to strengthen dialogue with Greece.

He said that Greek rhetoric pledging good neighborly relations must be followed by concrete acts of friendship and stronger cooperation. ”I cannot say whether pragmatism and reason will prevail in Athens. We hope so, although there are no encouraging signals for now,” he told media.

Droutsas on Monday invited the UN name mediator Matthew Nimetz to visit Greece in the coming period.

Droucas recently said that although the name talks remain under the UN auspices, this will not prevent Athens from taking part in direct bilateral meetings with Skopje, as “this might speed up the solution finding process”.

The two countries’ Prime Ministers, Macedonia’s Nikola Gruevski and Greece’s George Papandreou met two times recently. However, while their meetings signify a thaw in relations, the two did not agree on anything substantial.

Faced with the current Greek blockade in EU and NATO over the name row, Macedonia is under pressure to change its name in order to accede to these organisations.

Athens insists that Skopje’s formal name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims towards its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

In December Greece prevented the EU from extending a date to start Macedonia’s accession talks with the Union. In 2008, Athens also blocked Skopje’s NATO entry over the same issue.

NATO said it will accept Macedonia as soon as the name spat is out of the way while EU pledged to reassess the question of issuing a start date during the first six month of this year.

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