(To Vima, 11 November, 2001)
There were no fanfares last Thursday when the government took advantage of the joint meeting between the parliamentary committees for European Affairs of Greece and Holland to announce a change in its stance on the question of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The general secretary of the Foreign Ministry Mr. I. Plaskovitis appeared in the House and stated very simply, Greece is ready to sign an agreement for a composite name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia provided it is mutually acceptable. When asked whether this meant that the name could include the term Macedonia, he said only: I want to stand by my original statement.
Mr. Plaskovitis statements in effect verified that the government no longer considers binding the well known decision taken by the informal council of leaders which, in 1992, defined the countrys position as not to agree to a name which would include the term "Macedonia" or any derivatives thereof. A few months ago the Prime Minister C. Simitis had indirectly hinted at this abandonment of the decision, and the Foreign Minister Mr. G. Papandreou subsequently stated so unequivocally. The situation at that time was different from the international state of affairs now. And Greece was right at that time to try to reap the maximum benefit by taking a firm line, but is equally right in being more flexible now that everything is different, diplomats point out. Besides it is clear now that in Athens Skopje relations, the former has the upper hand and therefore the ability to move away from inflexibility, added a European ambassador.
The Balkans are undoubtedly an area where Greece wants to maintain a presence. As recently as last Tuesday, while speaking to Greek diplomats, Mr. Simitis pointed out that the September 11th terrorist strike, should not overshadow the necessity for re-organizing the Balkans and making them a place of peace and progress in democracy and co-operation, and went on to say, We must continue our efforts just as fervently. Movement towards a name for FYROM coincides exactly with the governments interest in the Balkan region as:
In spite of the change in its stance, the Greek government is not expecting a positive response from Skopje so a mutually acceptable composite name can be found at the present time. Even so, developing Greek economic and commercial activity in the neighbouring country as much as possible, is one of the governments Balkan priorities and Skopje has no reason to react against this.