Eu/greece/fyrom : Bakoyannis Criticises Skopje's "Nationalist Rhetoric"

Article excerpt

Greece favours the integration of all the Western Balkan countries with the EU, but strongly insists that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has to abandon its "populist" approach and truly look for a compromise solution to the name dispute' if it wants to make further progress toward the EU. "A Europe without the Balkans is incomplete. For there is no other way than the European integration for Greece's neighbours to escape their past of conflicts and engage the world," Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has said. Addressing a conference on Europe's challenges in 2009, on 26 January in Brussels, Bakoyannis accused the FYROM's government of applying "nationalist rhetoric and anachronistic practices" in its ongoing negotiations with Greece on the name issue.

"The government of [Nikola] Gruevski appears set at securing political gains through short-sighted populism," said Bakoyannis, giving as an example a recent decision by Skopje to rename a highway partly financed by Greece Alexander the Great' as a proof of Macedonia's provocative approach. She stressed, however, that despite "a lack of encouraging signs from the other side," Greece remains "hopeful" as regards the final outcome of the negotiations.

Giving a hint of Athens' expectations, Bakoyannis stressed that the agreement should "reflect the reality of the ground". In geographical terms, more than 50% of the broader region of Macedonia belongs to Greece. "We want a mutually acceptable solution; an agreement without winners or losers," she stressed, adding that Athens is ready to accept a new name - including Macedonia' - but with an adjective preceding it.

Partly due to the ongoing dispute with Greece over its name, the FYROM failed last November for the third time in a row to open accession talks with the EU. Earlier, at NATO's Bucharest summit in April 2008, Athens blocked Skopje's accession to the military alliance.

A new round of UN-mediated talks between the two states has been set for next month, but in the current climate of hard speeches from both sides, observers expect little progress in the immediate future. …