Greek media reports on July 24 2008 suggested that the letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso from Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski attempting to raise the issue of a “Macedonian minority” in Greece was set to backfire.
Amid the dispute between Skopje and Athens on the use of the name Macedonia, Gruevski in recent days first sent a letter to his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis and then to Barroso raising the question of the Macedonian minority and other issues not immediately related to the dispute.
The move by Gruevski, however, has been condemned by Greece as an attempt to muddy the waters of the name dispute.
On July 23, Matthew Nimetz, the United Nations mediator charged with the mediating the dispute between Athens and Skopje – the use of the name by the former Yugoslav republic is rejected by Athens which says that this reinforces Macedonia’s territorial claims in northern Greece – was reported to have said that the negotiations would remain confined to the name issue.
Greek media reported that Nimetz, in an interview with NET, Nimetz made the statement in reply to a question about the “Macedonian minority” in Greece. Greek news reports interpreted Nimetz’s reaction as a move to pressure Skopje indirectly to ease tensions.
Macedonians were irked last week when a statement on the name issue by Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was interpreted as implying that the onus was greater on Skopje to compromise.
German chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on July 23, said that the UN-mediated negotiations should be confined to the name issue.
Greek daily Apogevmatini said that Gruevski had been “slapped” by Merkel and Barroso. The online version of Athens-based daily Kathimerini quoted diplomatic sources as predicting that Barroso would reiterate EU summit decisions that endorsed Greece’s position on the name.
Kathimerini said that the Gruevski letter to Barroso had “irritated” EC officials.
“According to diplomatic sources, a letter from Brussels will explain that the EC does not have the competency to respond to Gruevski’s appeal. High-ranking EC officials, such as Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Jacques Barrot, who is responsible for internal affairs, are said to have refused to oversee a response to the letter.”
The letter, expected to bear Barroso’s signature, would probably include a reference to a paragraph from an EC report that refers to the importance of Athens and Skopje “maintaining good-neighbourly relations, which includes agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue,” the report said.
"Greece's position is known and firm. We seek a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue within the framework of the negotiating process held under the UN auspices," stated alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros when asked to comment on the statements made by UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz to NET public television on the FYROM issue.