The remark was widely viewed as an effort to bolster FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s campaign for a yes vote in a referendum on the accord at the end of the month.
The question posed in the 30 September referendum will link approval of the accord to Skopje’s membership in Nato and the EU.
Nimetz said if the agreement is rejected either in FYROM’s referendum or in its parliament, it could take another 25 years for another opportunity to resolve the naming issue.
In an interview with Birn, carried on the Balkan Insight website, Nimetz explains why this is a golden opportunity for Skopje.
“There are some people in your country who say, ‘Let’s not go forward with this agreement, let’s wait, give it some more years, we’ll get a better deal in the future.’ I say: ‘You don’t know where the EU will be, whether they will want another member, whether they will want your country, you don’t know where NATO will be, you don’t know what happens in Greece with the changes in their government, you don’t know what happens in the broader region and European political and economic environment that will affect a new negotiation. The idea of long-term waiting is a very risky one.”
Nimetz described the deal essentially as a win-win situation.
“I hope the agreement will pass, and I think it will pass in both countries, because it is a fair and honourable solution that meets the essential interests of both countries, but if it doesn’t get approved I do not see another solution in the near term,” the UN mediator said in his interview.
Nimetz also argued that a failure to pass the agreement will put Skopje in a bad light internationally.
“If you reject it, I fear you would be viewed by many as telling the world: ‘We are not interested in a compromise solution, we are not interested to solve this issue with Greece, we are not interested in the EU process, we are not interested in NATO, we are not interested in solving problems.’ The rest of the world is likely to say: ‘OK, these folks are not interested in solving anything, so why should we worry about their situation? … So it may be many, many years before anything resumes on this issue, if it is turned down.”