A meeting between envoy to the UN GS Matthew Nimetz and Greek Foreign Minster Nikos Kotzias for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will take place in Brussels on Monday.
Earlier this month Matthew Nimetz had contacts with government officials in Skopje, from where he estimated that in the coming months “we should not expect dramatic moves or changes” around the pending issue of the FYROM name dispute.
In addition to government officials, Matthew Nimetz also met with both the main opposition leader, Nikola Gruevski, and Al-Ahmeti, the leader of the co-governing Albanian DUI. The broadening of Nimetz’s round of meetings in Skopje may be due to FYRO Macedonia’s persistence in building consensus on resolving the name issue, which will include both the opposition and the Albanian bloc.
Following his visit to Skopje, Nimetz had planned to travel to Athens. This visit was postponed, as Kotzias was in Switzerland for talks on the Cyprus issue. This is the reason why a two-man meeting was planned via diplomatic channels for Monday 17 July in Brussels on the sidelines of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
The talks over the name had been on hold for a considerable period of time, both because of the attitude of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which prevented the progress of the talks, and the political crisis that broke out resulting in his resignation in January 2016.
However, the emergence of Skopje’s new government under Zoran Zaev appeared to give new impetus to the issue, at least rhetorically. In addition the New Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov spoke of a “second chance”.
Nevertheless, despite good intentions, according to estimates by the Greek side, the new FYRO Macedonia government has not yet made substantial changes to the its policy towards Greece, that demonstrate it rejects irredentism.
On the one hand, it argues that the demolition of monuments placed in the city of Skopje under the controversial “Skopje 2014” project will be costly and on the other hand it won’t rename the “Alexander the Great” airport. Concerning the name dispute, Zaev and Dimitrov, although at first sight they do not seem to follow the maximalist policy of their predecessors, they seek Skopje’s accession to NATO as FYRO Macedonia, ignoring not only Greek objections but also the NATO Bucharest Summit declaration.
Greece has kept a consistent and constructive attitude towards Skopje. And of course, this also happened during the recent political crisis. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, has made assurances that Greece wants the territorial integrity and stability of FYRO Macedonia. “We are your best neighbour,” is the message that was sent more than once by the Greek Foreign Minister.
Even when the EU was one step ahead of sanctions in Skopje, the Greek side objected to the argument that the sanctions would not offer anything to lift the political impasse that the country had suffered. It is no coincidence that Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was the first to address an invitation to Dimitrov, to which he responded immediately, by visiting Greece in mid-June.
During this first Kotzias-Dimitrov meeting they did not discuss the name dispute. At the time the Greek Foreign Minister clearly expressed the Greek position concerning the neighbouring country’s Euro-Atlantic course: before FYRO Macedonia joins the EU and NATO the name issue must be resolved. Something that also became clear during the 1st Tripartite Summit in Thessaloniki by both the President of Serbia Alexandar Vucic and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
At the same time, it was made clear that Greece wants to deepen cooperation through confidence-building measures. A series of confidence – building measures have already been implemented in areas such as interconnectivity, police cooperation, European programs, culture, education, civil protection, public administration, health as well as cooperation between the two diplomatic academies of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Promoting entrepreneurial initiatives.
During his visit to Skopje last week, the UN mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz clarified that “in the coming months we will not have to wait for dramatic moves or changes.” In addition, he stated that “there was no concrete new idea about the name”, and he did not fail to express his appreciation to the Greek Foreign Minister, which he described as “a very serious person”.
The meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz confirms Greece’s interest in finding a solution to the name issue. The desired outcome is a mutually acceptable solution that will take into account the sensitivities of the Greek side and will in fact put an end to the irredentism that has been particularly strengthened in the neighbouring country over the last decade.
As Kotzias stated following his meeting with Dimitrov: “I hope to develop our relations creatively and to be able to discuss the name dispute in the future in a way through which we can find a solution and do what needs to be done: to prove the strategic dynamic relationship we can have “./ΙΒΝΑ