NY Times Editorial Board

The Macedonians walked out of the NATO summit on Thursday and we can’t say we blame them.

Croatia and Albania were granted membership in the western alliance at a leaders’ meeting in Bucharest, but Macedonia was barred for an absurd reason: Greece doesn’t like its name.

That decision shames Greece and it dishonors NATO, which has far more serious problems and challenges to worry about.

The name “Macedonia,” is shared by the former Yugoslav republic and by northern Greece. From the moment the former-Yugoslav Macedonia declared independence in 1991, the Greeks — reflecting byzantine Balkan politics — vehemently objected to the new state’s use of a name and symbols they regard as theirs.

As a result, the United Nations provisionally designated the country as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” — or, rather uneuphonically: FYROM.

Athens has since normalized relations and many countries, including the United States, have abandoned the clumsy FYROM in favor of Republic of Macedonia, which is what Macedonia calls itself.

A United Nations mediator tried to work out a compromise but in the end, Greece — a NATO member since 1952 — exercised its veto. The alliance operates on consensus.

Tiny Macedonia doesn’t threaten Greece under any name. In fact, bringing it into the NATO fold would enhance regional stability. Now, there are concerns Macedonia’s failure to gain alliance membership could fan nationalism and anti-Western sentiment as well as jeopardize its ability to join the European Union.

President Bush and European leaders should have worked harder at finding a solution to this corrosive problem before Greece exercised its veto.

Now they must ratchet up the pressure on Greece to achieve that compromise so that NATO’s insult to Macedonia is reversed as quickly as possible.