Macedonia, NATO and the EU – precedent, paradox and pronunciation

Macedonia’s future Euro-Atlantic prospects depend heavily on resolving the challenges that arise from the precedent, paradox and pronunciation of the name dispute with Greece.

By Kire Babanoski

“It is no longer a question of vain words but of a bold act, a constructive act”.

Robert Schuman, May 9, 1950

Since the independence of Macedonia and the abandonment of the socialist system of self-government, it citizens have by-and-large opted to follow a path towards the EU and NATO. Through numerous meetings, agreements, negotiations and reforms, Macedonia has worked to harmonize its legislation and meet the criteria set, all in order to become a part of the European family.

Successful completion of such work has been awarded on several occasions. At the NATO summit in April 1999 in Washington, Macedonia became a candidate for membership of NATO; whilst on December 17th, 2005, the European Council granted candidate status to Macedonia. Both steps prompted great euphoria amongst its citizens; an emotion again felt when Macedonia secured visa liberalization on December 19th, 2009, allowing its citizens to travel freely to the countries of the Schengen zone. The European Commission then recommended that a date be set for the commencement of EU accession negotiations with Macedonia.

Three years on, the EU Council has yet to set a date for negotiations to begin; despite all conditions and requirements – criteria previously set at various EU summits – being fulfilled. As usual, the reason stated was the unresolved neighbourly relations problem with Greece over the name Macedonia. As with the April 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest – where Macedonia was refused an invitation to join NATO, despite meeting all the conditions set – a Greek blockade persists; as a precedent, paradox, pronunciation or something else?

Its precedent lies in the fact that in the entire history of these respective Euro-Atlantic organizations, individual member states of the European Union and NATO have never imposed a separate condition for the admission of a new member state. This is the first such instance of a member state blocking a neighbour from joining either body because of a bilateral problem – namely, disagreement over the name of the country, which by the will of both sides can be resolved later.

The dispute over the name of Macedonia is conducted under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, through an intermediary who is directly appointed by him. Though Macedonia was admitted into the UN in 1993 – and that process is complete – negotiations to bridge differences over its name, however, are still ongoing. Negotiations are indefinite, although the name of the document that leads the process is called Interim Agreement – Interim Accord.

Why, therefore, is this dispute run in the EU and NATO as well, when it is already ongoing in the UN? Furthermore, why is it an issue for these respective organizations if in the Interim Accord it is stated that, “the Party of the First Part agrees not to object to the application by or the membership of the Party of the Second Part in international, multilateral and regional organizations and institutions of which the Party of the First Part is a member”. The paradox of the blockade is therefore clear.

Perhaps the European Union and NATO still do not believe that Macedonia has met all the criteria set. Perhaps the EU and NATO were not ready – in part because of recent financial traumatic events – for new enlargements, so they used the name issue as an additional criterion. Pronunciation is therefore decisive.

Whichever applies best – precedent, paradox or pronunciation – the case of Macedonia and its entry into the EU and NATO is one of the most profound challenges facing the country. Will Greece permit membership, and will the Macedonian government make sufficient concessions? Will the Macedonian people in a referendum vote against the name change on behalf of Euro-Atlantic integration? Macedonia’s future Euro-Atlantic prospects depend heavily on resolving the challenges arising from the name dispute with Greece; challenges that international insistence and regional goodwill can help overcome.

Kire Babanoski is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of security in Skopje, University ‘St. Clement of Ohrid’ Bitola.

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2 Responses

  1. A Greek

    The agreement also included clauses against hostile propagnada, irredentism and attempts to usurp cultural patromony. How is it the author of this article, and FYROM’s patronizing apologists, seems to have missed the former Yugoslavians sudden transformation from Slavs into ancient macedonians?

    The longer FYROM’s apologists pretend not to notice, the more obvious it becomes they are more concerned with hiding their bigotry and mistakes than human rights of Greeks..

  2. Every Credible Historian Outside Europes North Korea (Republic of "macedonia")

    As a student of Ancient History and someone with actual basic awareness of international issues, rather than being a pseudo-intellect, I can tell you the Macedonia issue is not about “Names” RoM can call their nation France, USA, Republic of Willy Wonka or whatever they like. The issue is The 50 foot bronze statues of Alexander III (the Great), Phillip II, Roman Emperor Justinian and more.
    It’s the government funded pseudo-history and state media(, and more) which have brainwashed these essentially former self-identifying ethnic Bulgarians into the biggest joke on the planet. It is vast, extensive and expensive identity fraud on a international scale. The people there live in an alternate reality. They believe they are ancient Macedonians despite having no evidence for it at all. Their methodology, semantics and logic is VERY similar if not the same to religious apologists. “Macedonism” is a faith based cult.

    THIS is the issue, what gives a government a right to brainwash its population at massive economic cost while simultaneously stripping a nation of its culture history and identity? It is disgusting. It must never be tolerated by the international community, if this was Mexico building statues to George Washington and the government in Mexico City calling themselves the government of Republic of USA this issue would be nullified before it even became an issue. This says it all, the international community thinks that because the originators of western civilization (the Hellenes) have be done over by their government their plights can somehow be ignored and the criminals in Republic of “Macedonia” can get away with this?


    Maybe you should make every effort to resist your governments propaganda, and maybe work out that it is not a worldwide conspiracy involving every other nation and academic institution on earth, and it is simply your governments responsibility. You even have a cheap knock off version of the Brandenburg Gate with the titan Prometheus (how ironic) in front of it! You say you are from Skopje? Want to understand the issue everyone has hm? Step outside and look at the disgusting and tacky propaganda your government has erected in the capital. Maybe then you will begin to realize the scale of the issue.

    How can negotiations begin when your capital is filled with figures from history that has nothing to do with your people and your government so blatantly sponsors active delusion of its population?

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