The UN Special Representative for the naming dispute between Greece and FYROM, Matthew Nimetz, said that the issue “can and should be resolved” next year after the parties met for the first time in three years in Brussels.
Greece objects to Skopje’s use of the name “Macedonia”, saying it implies irredentist and territorial ambitions on the part of Skopje. Greece’s objections have complicated Skopje’s aspirations to join NATO and the European Union.
Nimetz, a U.S. diplomat who is the personal envoy of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said after a meeting with Greek and FYROM envoys Adamantios Vassilakis and Vasko Naumovski that “the atmosphere is a much better one and from both Skopje, and Athens there is an indication that we should make an intensive effort to resolve this issue that has been outstanding for so many years.”
Under the new government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, FYROM has been seeking to speed up the Balkan nation’s efforts to join the EU and NATO by improving strained relations with neighbors Greece and Bulgaria, and has been pushing for new talks with Athens over the long-standing name dispute.
Zaev, in the first-ever visit by a FYROM prime minister to neighbouring Kosovo on Tuesday, said FYROM and Greek officials were working “to reconfirm their will of resuming essential talks to reach a solution”.
Nimetz voiced hope that a breakthrough would be possible soon, saying, “The general mood is that the next months, certainly the next year, is a year in which these issues can and should be resolved.”
“My own thinking as the UN representative on these tasks is to make a real push to see in the next months whether we can get to some resolution,” he added.
Nimetz refused to speculate about what new name could replace the country’s current official name – the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.