After the initial euphoria about the prospects of a FYROM name settlement, Athens is bracing for a second massive rally against Skopje using the name Macedonia, in Athens this time, even as Skopje faces internal pressures to be unflinching in defending the use of the name Macedonian to describes the country’s language and cultural identity.
In Skopje yesterday after talks with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, FYROM’s foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, clearly indicated that Greek acceptance of the existence of a Macedonian language and nationality is a sine qua non for reaching a compromise settlement.
“No one can deny us the right to call ourselves Macedonians and to speak the Macedonian language, as one of the Slavic tongues,” Dimitrov said, stressing that there will be no deal if the Macedonian national identity of FYROM’s citizens is not recognised.
“I respect absolutely and understand Greek citizens who want to identify with the region of Macedonia and be called Macedonians. In the 21st century, no one can deny his people the right to be called the Macedonian people” Dimitrov said.
“If there is a way for the identity and dignity of both sides to be respected, we will have an agreement. There may not be, but we are obliged to try and find it,” he noted.
For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, speaking to Reuters, expressed certitude that a settlement will be reached before the next Nato summit, in July, when Skopje hopes to be invited to join the Alliance.
At the same time, Nimetz said that the Greek side has not told him anything that would reject the “Macedonian” identity of the Slavic population of FYROM, which has an Albanian minority that represent 30 percent of the population.
Nimetz said that there is strong political will on both sides to reach a settlement, and with customary optimism he said there could be a deal in weeks or months. The UN envoy said that the talks have developed a dynamic that one must build upon.