Skopje and Athens – can a version of the ESI proposal work?

A few months ago I visited Macedonia to present EU diplomats, ambassadors, the Macedonian prime minister, the foreign minister and party leaders a slighly revised version of the ESI proposal for overcoming the stalemate in the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece.

I also presented this proposal once again in Brussels, Berlin  and in other EU capitals.  I gave everyone a paper copy of the revised proposal. Since then it has circulated among EU diplomats.

It would be foolish to be too optimistic that anything can help overcome such a complicated dispute. And yet, there are a number of reasons to be more optimistic this time than in a long while. I remain convinced also that nothing can be forced by outsiders on either party, not now, not later. It will take  a compromise that national leaders can present to their publics in both Skopje and Athens as a step forward for their side; and one where both sides retain their leverage until actual EU accession of Macedonia.

Then, earlier this month, the Macedonian weekly Gradjanski reported the following:

drawing on unnamed diplomats, reported that Brussels was working on a‘date for date’ strategy about the country in December: start of membership negotiations would be announced for next June with Skopje being obliged to deliver by then tangible results on good neighbourly relations (improved ties with Bulgaria and Greece, including essential reviving of the name negotiations). The sources stressed the importance in this context of a constructive response of Skopje to Greece’s memorandum, which would offer ideas, but also pointed at the government being reserved about the plan. The weekly also reported on an upgraded 2010 proposal by the European Stability Initiative that the name issue be resolved in the early stage of membership negotiations but the referendum on the solution take place at the end of the process, i.e. together with the referendum on EU membership. According to Gragjanski, the upgraded document, which is reportedly supported by an influential lobby group in Brussels, foresees for the new composite name to immediately replace the current reference and its wider use to enter into force together with EU accession. Constitutional changes are expected from Skopje in order to accept the new name for international use; the constitutional name will remain official name of the country in its official languages and the use of the adjective ‘Macedonian’ will not be called in question, says the proposal.”

I have since been asked by a number of people to share the new version of the proposal. This then is the latest version in full:

Breaking the Macedonian deadlock before the end of 2012

What is needed is a way forward that accepts the bottom lines for Athens and Skopje. This can be achieved through a constitutional amendment in Skopje that changes the name of the country with a geographic qualifier today: to replace Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where the latter is currently in use, allowing Athens to support the start of EU accession talks and to sending an invitation to join NATO later this year or early next year, but which foresees that the change will enter into force permanently and erga omnes on the day Macedonia actually joins the EU.

Such a solution is possible if the following happens:

1. There is active mediation between both sides which focus solely on finding a compromise name for the country with a geographical modifier, dealing with the issues of RM NATO accession and the opening of EU
accession talks.

2. Greece and RM agree on a compromise name, XYZ, with a geographical modifier. This will immediately replace F.Y.R.O.M. wherever that is currently in use in international

3. Greece commits to allow RM to join NATO under this new provisional name XYZ and an invitation to join NATO is extended.

4. RM changes its constitution to say something like this:
“From the day the Republic of Macedonia joins the European Union the international name of the country will be XYZ, used erga omnes in all languages other than the official languages of the country.”
The promised referendum on EU accession at the end of the negotiation process becomes thereby de facto the real referendum on the name issue (there was no referendum for F.Y.R.O.M., and until accession the new name is used only in place of F.Y.R.O.M.).
Leaders in RM replace one name their citizens do not like (referring to a state that has disappeared decades ago, Yugoslavia) with another name they do not like, both used in the same way.

Neither side loses leverage in the future. If future Greek governments block EU accession of RM or make additional demands judged unacceptable in Skopje this would also delay the entering into force of the core provision of this compromise. Greece shows its EU partners that it remains actively in favor of Balkan enlargement. Greece also keeps its leverage until the very end of the accession process

7 Replies to “Skopje and Athens – can a version of the ESI proposal work?”

  1. “Leaders in RM replace one name their citizens do not like (referring to a state that has disappeared decades ago, Yugoslavia) with another name they do not like, both used in the same way.”

    Check you facts Mr. ProblemSolver, the Macedonians do not like FYROM not because it has Yugoslavia in it (which admittedly is weird because non of the other ex-Yugoslavian countries have that name contained within their original names) but because it was forced on them by a immature government couple of hundred km south of Skopje.

    By the way there exists such a contract already Mr. NotProperlyInformed 🙂
    The accepting of the name FYROM for foreign use came after a huge pressure and embargo with such a condition that Greece would not block Macedonia’s aspiration to become a member of Nato or EU. Guess what…they broke that by implementing a veto and the Hague court of justice said they did. So you get an A for being optimistic when writing this report but you failed because your article is naive and the idea has been proven as not functional even in the past couple of years.

    What if Nato disbands in 10 years? Many alliances have disbanded in the past…
    Or more concretely what if this is enough to get the country in Nato but not in EU.
    The only real solution is for the EU-whore to man-up and concentrate on the will of the people who live in Macedonia to call themselves and their country the way they want to.
    This argument just shows how fucked up the politicians in Europe and the World really are…


  2. “From the day the Republic of Macedonia joins the European Union the international name of the country will be XYZ, used erga omnes in all languages other than the official languages of the country.”- This is a Greek proposal or yours, because seems like all that Greece want. Erga omnes is not acceptable for Macedonia. Official language in Macedonia is Macedonian so don`t use other construction for it. If you really want to help then force Greece to accept the historic facts that they occupied south part of Macedonia during Balkan wars.

  3. Macedonians around the world remain completely astonished of the inability of the EU to do the right thing and apply the appropriate amount of pressure on Greece to remove the veto on it’s EU progress , as well as NATO membership.

    The Interim Accord between the two countries (1994) does not allow Greece to block Macedonia to enter EU, NATO or other organisations under the provisional name. The ICJ has determined in favour of Macedonia a year ago. Hello? Is there anyone in the EU following the rule of the law? Or is it purely geo-politics driving the process while feeding all sorts of b/s to the Macedonian people about EU solidarity, democracy, rule of the law and so on.

    EU needs to stop with the silly menthal acrobatics about the problem that Greece has with the Maceodnian name. If ESI wants to do something useful you should push for the human rights of the MAcedonian people living in Greece. They have been persecuted for a hundred years including the last 30-40 years within the borders of the EU. It is absolutely shocking that not a single EU politician, nor a group with the exception of the EFA, have had the decency to deal with this issue.

    This is the cause of the “name problem”, but MAcedonians know that EU knows, thanks very much.

    EU is losing whatever credibility it had in Macedonia, or Macedonians living elsewhere. The Macedonians 20 years ago were lucky to escape the totalitarian regime but would be out of their mind to enter another union based on rotten practices. That is the sentiment in Macedonia – trust me! But EU don’t really care, they’ve got a bif thumb haven’t they?

  4. We macedonians do not want to change our name, get that in your heads!

    Macedonian will be Macedonia.

  5. Hi Gerald,

    I agree with your proposal linking the new name for FYROM to take effect when they are accepted into the EU, I think this might help speed this process along. As Macedonia is a region that covers an area of three modern day countries, I do not believe anyone should have the exclusive right to use the term “Macedonia” on its own.

    The Greek proposal of a “geographical qualifier” ie Northern/Upper/New/Vardar/Slav Macedonia (which ever one is agreed on by both countries) to be used “Erga Omnes” (i.e. the new name is to be used by everyone in all bilateral and international dealings) is very reasonable.

    I go one step further, maybe Greece might want to think about changing the name of its region to something like Aegean/Ancient Macedonia (i’m not sure if this will help or stall the process) which will take effect the same time the new name for FYROM is adopted.

    This way there is no confusion between FYROM and the Macedonian region in Greece.

    I believe that previous FYROM governments in the late 90’s were probably more willing to accept a name change with a “geographical qualifier”, but Greece was so insistent that the term “Macedonia” not be included in any part of FYROMs new name. I think Greece has to take a big portion of the blame for this name issue. I believe Greece’s current position is fair for both sides. What is your view on this?

    Gerald, on another note, I would like to know what your position is, on what the official language will be for FYROM (along with Albanian). I think something like the term Makedonski or Macedonija might be more appropriate than “Macedonian” as these terms better describe the Slavic nature of FYROMs main official language.

  6. Gerald,
    Your proposal is so foolish, idiotic and offensive… it merits no comment.
    Just as a reference, when you change your name to “North Gerald” Germany to “Prussia” and Greece to “Poor Arabia”…. even then Macedonia won’t change its name only to enter a corrupt mafia run “union” called EU which will probably cease to exist in the next 2-3 years max.

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