Macedonia President Addresses Name Issue

Macedonia will never accept a solution for the name spat with Greece that touches upon identity issues, Macedonian President Georgi Ivanov told media on Tuesday.

“Every solution that contributes to altering the reference to our language and our uniqueness is unacceptable for Macedonia. We cannot agree that Greek positions and proposals are promoted as mutually acceptable positions,” Ivanov said during his visit to the southwestern town of Bitola.

Ivanov’s statement is in line with what Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his party, the main ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE, have been saying over the past few days.

“When such a mutually acceptable solution is reached, then citizens should have their say. This was part of my electoral platform and this is the position of the ruling party,” Ivanov noted.

On Sunday PM Gruevski made a controversial statement that has since drawn reactions from all sides.He said that he finds the proposed name “Republic of Northern Macedonia” for all uses unacceptable and that if there is a referendum on this he would vote against it.

This name has recently been mentioned as the most probable compromise solution to the long lasting name spat between Macedonia and Greece. However it was not revealed whether Gruevski objects to the proposal as a whole or just the provision that the name should be used in all situations.

VMRO DPMNE backed their leader this week and explained that the name that has been circulating as a possible compromise solution reflects only the stance of the Greek side.

Gruevski’s party promised voters at the 2008 elections that it would stage a referendum if any agreement on the name issue is reached with Greece. President Ivanov did the same in 2009 when he ran for the presidential seat as candidate of this party.

Macedonia’s opposition said such statements by top officials might strike a serious blow to the effort to close the name issue once and allow Macedonia to continue its path towards EU and NATO membership.

In the wake of the prime minister’s controversial statement, the EU ambassador to the country, Erwan Fouere asked for less statements and more negotiation on this issue.

Athens fears that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims over its own northern province, also called Macedonia. Athens recently suggested that a name with the prefix Northern might be acceptable for them, but only if it is for all uses.

Skopje, on the other hand, fears it might lose its national identity and dignity if it gives in to Athens’s demands. It also objects to the use of a compromise name for all communication, arguing that at least the 120 states that have recognised the country under its current official name should be left to decide on their own if they wish to change their stance.

July is seen as an informal deadline for solving the spat, with the EU pressing for a compromise to be found by then. The next round of Athens-Skopje name talks is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.

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