Macedonia Awaits Greek Reply to Olive Branch

Athens has yet to respond to Macedonia’s request for intensified bilateral cooperation and a declaration of friendship.Athens has yet to issue any official response after Macedonia at the weekend proposed a set of bilateral agreements with Greece to be crowned by a declaration of friendship and cooperation.

But, off the record, the first reactions from Greece appeared cool at best.“There is a dilemma on the Greek side about how the government [in Macedonia] plans to intensify the cooperation while, instead of creating a good climate, it intensifies tension between the two states and negative propaganda against Greece at all levels,” an unnamed official from the Greek Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying in the daily Utrinski Vesnik.

Macedonian government spokesman Aleksandar Gjorgiev said at the weekend that Skopje was “prepared for dialogue, talks, arguments, meetings at any level, direct or under UN sponsorship, aimed at improving relations and overcoming open issues”.

Apart from the friendship declaration, Macedonia has also proposed setting up a joint committee between the countries’ two interior ministries, including meetings of border police and customs officials from both sides.

Macedonia also proposed a deal on avoiding double taxation, more frequent meetings between Greek and Macedonian historians, with a view to ironing out different views of history, and new border crossings between the countries.

Gjorgiev said that Macedonia had been proposing similar ideas for years but they had been constantly rejected by Greece.

Relations between Macedonia and Greece have been strained for two decades by the row over Macedonia’s name.

Greece insists that use of the term “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.

Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has repeatedly blocked Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership.

UN-brokered talks to overcome the dispute have so far failed to result in a solution.

Former Macedonian Foreign Minister Denko Malevski said he doubted the new initiative would yield anything significant.

“I do not see either side reaching for reconciliation. This may just be an attempt to buy time or impress the international community,” he said.

Malevski added that in principle all friendship initiatives are welcome and should be given a chance, however.

The most recent cause of friction came in June when Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski accused Greece of having waged “political genocide” against Macedonia for 20 years, referring to the Greek blockade and its denial of Macedonia’s name and identity.

Greece then accused Macedonia of stirring up negative propaganda against Greece.

Earlier that month Greek border guards angered Macedonians by placing stickers on Macedonian cars entering Greece, covering the initials “MK” and reading: “Recognized by Greece as FYROM” [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia].

Macedonia denounced the action as offensive and provocative.

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