Macedonia PM Slams Greece, Athens Rebuffs

resizer100Greece decided to block Macedonia’s NATO accession a year before the April 2008 Bucharest summit but kept its intentions secret, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski said on Friday, adding fuel to the fire sparked by reports of a controversial statement by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

Athens has denied the statement attributed to Bakoyannis as widely reported in Macedonian media, and accused Skopje of blowing the issue out of proportion.

“We have been claiming this all along”, Gruevski said noting that Bakoyannis statement as quoted by MIA represents practical proof that “one year before the summit Greece already had made the decision not to let Macedonia join NATO and the EU”.

On Thursday MIA conveyed a quote from a Bakoyiannis speech earlier this week as saying that the Greek government “knew our strategy on the Skopje issue even before the summer of 2007. The decision was already passed. Still, we did not allow this decision to be made public during the (Greek) pre-election period, because we would have harmed the country’s interests.”

The Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry web site carries the quote slightly differently: “We knew what strategy we would pursue on the Skopje issue even before the summer of 2007. The decision had been made. But at no point during the election campaign did we allow this issue to be turned into the subject of a domestic political dispute. Because if we had allowed that to happen, it would have been harmful for the entire country”.

Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told Balkan Insight that the MIA report was false. An official of the Greek Liaisons Office in Skopje told Balkan Insight on Friday that the comments by Macedonian officials “constitute an arbitrary interpretation of the Greek position towards this country. We sincerely hope that they do not aim at creating, once more, intentionally wrong impressions”.

In April, NATO reached a joint conclusion to extend a membership invitation to Macedonia only after the name dispute with long-time NATO member Greece is resolved. Greece insists that Macedonia should change its name as using it implies territorial claims against its own northern province of the same name.

In November Athens sued Greece in the International Court of Justice in Hague over the NATO blockade, saying that under a 1995 UN-brokered accord, Athens had pledged not to block its neighbor from entering international organizations as long as that is under its provisional name in the UN, Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia.

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