As the 27-year Macedonia name dispute continues, this week the Prime Ministers of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are scheduled to meet to continue talks with hopes said to be at their highest for striking a deal.
Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart, Zoran Zaev will meet on Thursday in Sofia, Bulgaria, where an EU-Western Balkans summit is taking place between EU leaders and six Balkan nations.
On Saturday Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias met with FYROM’s top diplomat Nikola Dimitrov for an intense six-hour meeting, which veteran United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz said had set a positive benchmark for Thursday’s crucial meeting.
Mr Dimitrov acknowledged that he and Mr Kotzias had a responsibility to come to a solution that “will meet as much as possible the needs of both countries and enable the prime ministers to meet and after that to shake hands”. However no comments have been made to the press following their talks.
Likely options being considered as an alternate name to ‘Macedonia’ are ‘Upper’, ‘New’ or ‘North Macedonia’.
If Thursday’s meeting goes well, it is anticipated that a deal could be struck as early as late June, just in time for the following EU summit. If so, it would also open up the chance for NATO to invite FYROM to join the alliance.
Given the name dispute, FYROM has been unable to join NATO and the European Union.
Since Mr Zaev’s Social Democrat-led government took over from the nationalists in power, there’s no denying relations between FYROM and Greece have remarkably improved.
As a gesture of goodwill, this year FYROM changed the name of its Skopje Alexander the Great Airport to Skopje International Airport, and also changed the name of its main highway to Friendship Highway.