Thursday, August 21, 2008

Macedonian Minority No Threat to Greece

Greece's recognition of its ethnic Macedonian minority will not harm Greece in any way, since the Macedonians there are loyal citizens who only seek their basic rights, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister said.

Athens has “double standards” when it comes to the Macedonian minority, Antonio Milososki said, in an interview for the Greek newspaper, Kathimerini, on Sunday.

If Athens sees the small Greek minority in Turkey as no threat to Turkey, how can several thousand people who declare themselves as Macedonians in Greece pose a threat to that country? Milososki asked.

The Skopje government asked Athens to grant formal recognition to its Macedonian minority in Greece in July. It also asked for the restitution of the property of Macedonians who fled the 1946-1949 Greek civil war. The government forwarded similarly worded requests to the UN, European Union and NATO, requesting their engagement. Read more:

Greece's position remains that no such community even exists. “There in no Macedonian minority in Greece nor ever was there,” the Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, wrote in his answer to the letter from Skopje.

Regarding the ongoing dispute over the country's name, Miloski said Macedonia's position remained firm, adding that the chances for a compromise solution looked small, as long as Greek pressure towards Macedonia continued.

In April, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO accession, citing the unresolved row, and Greece has threatened to repeat the same tactics over Macedonia's EU bid if Macedonia refuse to change its name. Greece says the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Milososki’s interview came days before Greek and Macedonian negotiators were to meet on Thursday in New York to resume ongoing UN-sponsored name talks.

On Friday, the Macedonian Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said that he hoped the UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, would came up with a “much better” proposal than his last one.

Kathimerini said the compromise name “Northern Macedonia” was still in the game, however, adding that Nimetz believed a final solution to the row could still be reached by September.

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