Strong reaction in Australia followed this week’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), that Greece breached the 1995 UN-brokered Interim Accord with FYROM.

“I’m very happy about the result, nothing has changed.” Dimitri Minas, Pan-Macedonian Association

According to the ICJ, Greece’s actions in 2008 in relation to a NATO summit in Bucharest which debated FYROM’s membership, “breached its obligation” under the agreement to end the dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic. The court however declined FYROM’s request to stop Athens continuing to raise objections to Skopje’s membership in “any other international, multilateral and regional organizations and institutions,” saying it did not consider such a move necessary.

Greece is now pinning its hopes on NATO and the EU clarifying with Skopje, that the ICJ ruling will not change their decision-making process on membership criteria. In its defence, Greece had argued that the decision not to admit FYROM to NATO at the Bucharest summit was taken by all of NATO’s members. But the court took into account statements by Greece’s then Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis who said that Athens was not prepared to let FYROM join NATO until the name dispute had been resolved.

The Australian Macedonian Advisory Council (AMAC) issued a statement saying that the ICJ judgment would not have any significant impact on the name negotiations or FYROM’s prospects of acceding to NATO or the EU. “NATO members, both individually and collectively have repeatedly declared that FYROM will only be able to join the organisation upon resolution of the naming dispute with Greece under the auspices of UN-brokered negotiations”.

AMAC pointed out that the ICJ had missed a number of other breaches by FYROM of the Interim Accord, including using the Vergina Sun emblem in an official capacity, promoting maps of ‘Greater Macedonia’ encompassing Greek territory in state school books and official state ceremonies, and the provocational renaming of sites, including the changing of the title of Skopje International Airport to “Alexander the Great Airport”.

President of the Pan Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Australia, Dimitri Minas told Neos Kosmos: “I’m very happy about the result, nothing has changed. They didn’t talk about the name, it’s still called FYROM, and still Greece can put a veto on Skopje [joining NATO and the EU]. “If Greece wants to do what Karamanlis and Bakoyannis did again, it can do it,” added Mr Minas. “The veto option still exists. It’s the best [outcome] we can have. Nothing has changed. In fact we win, we don’t have to sit and talk with them anymore. The [Interim Accord] agreement is finished.” Reaction in Athens and Skopje was broached in diplomatic but robust tones.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said: “Greece will continue to pursue negotiations in good faith to reach a mutually acceptable solution.” Prime Minister Papademos added that “reaching a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue is a condition for the full normalization of relations,” and added that “continuing provocation” by FYROM was harming the process. Skopje’s President Gjorge Ivanov said “for the time being, we do not want to look [at this] through the categories of winners and losers. We need to work together with Greece on our common future and the future of our region.”

PM Nikola Gruevski went a step further, saying that the ruling would give, “a new, positive impulse to move forward and overcome the name dispute.” Meanwhile, the FYROM community in Australia, as represented by the Australian (sic) Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) and (sic) Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) urged its members “to put the decision into some perspective … it does not endorse the (sic) Republic of Macedonia’s name, nor does it put an end to the disgraceful name ‘discussions’ between (sic) Macedonia and its southern neighbour.”