Little progress on Name Dispute after “remedial diplomacy” session called by Matthew Nimetz

(L-R) Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, UN Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Matthew Nimetz and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias arrive for a meeting at the UN in Vienna, Austria, 25 April 2018. EPA-EFE/ALEX HALADA

Athens roiled by EU Enlargement Commissioner Hahn’s optimistic pronouncements


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Filling a rare week when no bilateral meetings on the Greece-Macedonia/FYROM Name Dispute were scheduled, UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz organised a special meeting in Vienna April 25 to try to re-energise the increasingly bogged-down negotiations, but little progress was reported.

The normal interlocutors in the process, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Macedonian/FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, dutifully met with Nimetz for a four-hour session upon receiving his summons. Key outstanding issues remain the difficult core concerns that have proven more problematic than the name itself – the use of the to-be-agreed name for all purposes, referred to by the Greek side as “erga omnes” as well as changes in the Macedonia/FYROM constitution.

“We discussed the open issues between the parties, including the name issue,” Nimetz said after the meeting which this time included no separate remarks to the press from either the Greek or Macedonian/FYROM foreign ministers. “It was an intense discussion, very cordial and… both sides are very dedicated to reaching a solution. The process will continue in the next weeks,” Nimetz explained.

The negotiations are increasingly being impacted by comments regarding Macedonia/FYROM’s accession prospects by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. Over the last week, the Greek foreign ministry has responded unhappily to optimistic pronouncements from Hahn and his Brussels apparatus noting expectations that a Name Dispute deal is forthcoming in the next several weeks. In one of several statements, the Greek foreign ministry called Hahn’s remarks “unfortunate” and asked him to “stop undermining” the Name Dispute negotiations.

In view of the neutral stance taken by NATO in the long-running but currently extremely tense Greek-Turkey dispute over the Aegean islands and navigation rights, no observer would expect Athens to be particularly interested in pleasing its NATO allies by rushing to approve its expansion hopes (by adding Macedonia/FYROM) at the July Summit in Bucharest. Kotzias is meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg late on April 26th and both subjects will be at the top of the agenda.

The next encounter between Greek and Macedonia/FYROM foreign ministers is expected May 3-4 in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of a long-planned regional summit between Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia/FYROM. This will be followed by another meeting, this time on the sidelines of a different Balkan summit on the future of Europe, at Sounion near Athens on May 11-12.

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