Macedonia will not be Blackmailed over Name, Says PM

Fully fledged membership of NATO and the European Union remains Macedonia’s top priority but the country will not accept blackmail from Greece in order to achieve these goals, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.

At a celebration of the 12th anniversary of his ruling VMRO-DPMNE party’s Union of Women, Gruevski said that Macedonia looks forward to a compromise on the bilateral name row with its southern neighbour Greece, which has so far stalled Skopje’s progress towards accession to these two blocks.

“We accept a compromise, but not under pressure and blackmails,” Gruevski said.

The name problem, he said, “will be settled when our neighbour starts treating us as a nation with our own needs, feelings, emotions, dignity and culture, as a Macedonian nation with our own language and identity, uniqueness, as people and not objects that may be bought or convinced under pressure”.

Last year Athens blocked Skopje’s entry into NATO arguing that its official name, Republic of Macedonia, has to be changed first as it suggests territorial claims on Greece’s own northern province, also called Macedonia.

This month, Athens prevented EU ministers from setting a start date for Macedonia’s accession talks for the same reasons. The EU decided to postpone the decision on this issue for six months hoping for a quick Athens-Skopje solution.

“Macedonia and its citizens do not wish to take over someone’s territory, history, anything, they just wish to preserve their own,” the PM said.

Skopje’s next chance to secure the desired EU date is March, during the next high level EU meeting. But local observers are skeptical that the name row will be resolved by then.

Meanwhile the UN mediator in the name talks, Matthew Nimetz, has not organised another round of negotiations, giving rise to speculation about secret diplomacy.

Media speculates that some form of “Republic of Northern Macedonia” might satisfy both sides, but say that disagreements remain over the breadth of its use and the naming of the Macedonian language and identity.

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