History of a dispute between two neighbors - From a referendum on independence to a referendum on the name

History of a dispute between two neighbors - From a referendum on independence to a referendum on the name
On September 8, 1991, when Macedonia declared independence after a referendum, no one could predict that the country would have to wait for 27 years to get its name recognized by its southern neighbor and the entire international community. On the request for recognition under the constitutional name in the United Nations, on the basis of the report of the Badinter Commission, Greece opposed several grounds: the Constitution, the flag and the name. As a member of the European Union, Greece put pressure on other countries that resulted in the Lisbon Declaration of June 1992, which demanded guarantees of alleged territorial pretensions and hostile propaganda, and the name of the state did not contain the word Macedonia.

The Greek parties and the diaspora united demanding that the word Macedonia should not be in the name of the country. On February 14, 1992, the famous rally in Thessaloniki was held, where over one million Greeks protested. However, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Turkey and Belarus were among the first countries to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name. Over the years, nearly 140 countries will do the same, including the United States, Russia, China etc.

On April 7, 1993, the Security Council approved Macedonia's entry into the United Nations under Resolution 817. It states that the reference "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" is temporary and will be used until the dispute between Athens and Skopje is resolved. The UN is neutral in this matter and have no mandate to confirm the name. EU countries recognize Macedonia under this reference.

The mood quickly changed. The UN admission under the reference was voted in the Parliament in Skopje with only 30 votes in favor, 28 against and 13 abstentions. The government in Athens collapsed after, due to disagreement over the dispute with Macedonia; Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras left the post, after which Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis resigned. A new governments comes in with Andreas Papandreou, who stopped the negotiations in October 1994, and Greece imposed an economic embargo against Macedonia.

Greece and Macedonia finally formalized bilateral relations with the Interim Accord, signed in New York on September 13, 1995 by the heads of diplomacy Stevo Crvenkovski and Karolos Papoulias. It was mediated by the famous American diplomat Richard Holbrooke during frequent visits to Athens and Skopje. This agreement was part of a project for the pacification of the Balkans, and with it, the Dayton Agreement on the end of the war in Bosnia was also signed. With this agreement, Macedonia agreed to change its flag (the Vergina star) and to amend the Constitution in the part of the preamble, where is said that Macedonia has no territorial pretensions towards any of its neighbors. The Greek side committed itself not to hinder Macedonia's path to membership in international institutions such as NATO, the OSCE, the EU etc.

The name negotiations then stagnated, and the names that went into circulation as possible solutions were declined. At the end of 2000 and early 2001, the then prime ministers Ljubco Georgievski and Costas Simitis discussed the "Republic of Upper Macedonia" as an option, but the military conflict in the country halted all initiatives.

On April 8, 2005, UN mediator Matthew Nimetz came up with the proposal "Republic of Macedonia - Skopje", with each country deciding on the way it will address the country. In October 2005, Nimetz came up with the "triple formula", which envisioned "Republic of Macedonia" for international use, and for those countries that have already recognized Macedonia under this name, Greece to use the formula "Republic of Macedonia - Skopje" and "Republic of Macedonia" to be used in international organizations and in the UN. Nationality, according to this proposal, was supposed to be "citizens of the Republic of Macedonia". The proposal had two annexes: the first is the name "Republic of Macedonia" to be valid until 2008, then "Republic of Macedonia", and with the second annex the name dispute was envisaged to be re-settled in 15 years. There was no mood in both countries to accept a compromise.

In February 2008, the eight-point plan proposed by Nimetz appeared, citing "Constitutional Republic of Macedonia", "Democratic Republic of Macedonia", "Independent Republic of Macedonia", "New Republic of Macedonia" or "Republic of Upper Macedonia". According to the proposal, one of these names should have been for use in international organizations and for bilateral relations with Greece. On March 25, 2008, a final proposal was made: a geographical determinant for overall use. The constitutional name of Cyrillic, "Република Македонија" can be used for internal use, and "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)" in international relations.

Ten days later, the Macedonian delegation traveling to the NATO Summit in Bucharest offered a written document that would accept the name "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)" in order to receive an invitation to join the Alliance. Greece refused, and neither could the strong international pressure on them help. There was great disappointment on the Macedonian political scene, and among the citizens. Macedonia sued Greece at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which ruled in our favor, that is, Greece violated the International Compact. Nevertheless, Macedonia did not enter NATO, nor started negotiations with the EU.

On April 9, 2013, the mediator proposed "Upper Macedonia", but the problem was where to put the qualifier: before or after the Republic. The process of antiquisation has already begun in Macedonia, the negotiations were formally ongoing, but in practice they had no significance. The latest proposals were also experienced before the change of power: Republic of Nova Makedonija, Republic of Northern Macedonia, Republic of Vardar Macedonia, Republic of Upper Macedonia and Republic of Macedonia (Skopje), all with Macedonian transcription, written in Latin.

In the negotiations, Macedonia was represented by four negotiators: Vanja Tosevski, Nikola Dimitrov, Zoran Jolevski and Vasko Naumovski. Dimitrov returned to the negotiating table as foreign minister, and it seems to be the last one in this senseless process that burdens the relations between the two neighbors. However, the final say will be given to the citizens in the referendum, which, according to the announcements, should be held in September or October this year.

Chronology of the dispute

September 8, 1991: Macedonia declares independence

1992: Parliament in Macedonia rejects the proposal "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)", and it is also rejected in Greece

April 8, 1993: Macedonia joins the UN under the reference "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"

September 13, 1995: Interim Accord between Macedonia and Greece signed

2001: The Greek media claimed that an agreement was reached between then Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Greek Costas Simitis for the name "Republic of Upper Macedonia", but it was never made official

2008: Macedonia expresses its readiness to accept the name "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)" in exchange for joining NATO, but Greece refuses due to announcement by Nikola Gruevski for referendum

December 5, 2011: The International Court in The Hague ruled in favor of Macedonia, which sued Greece for breaching the Interim Accord

By 2017: A dozen meetings between Prime Ministers Nikola Gruevski and George Papandreou, no result

Since June 2017, Zoran Zaev, as the new prime minister, announces a new policy towards the dispute. The name of the airport and the highway changed

In February 2018, Zaev announced that he is willing to accept a geographical qualifier to the name

13 June 2018: Macedonia and Greece reach a compromise through the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia"

Goran Adamovski

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