Envoy to Skopje Recalled After Statements on the Fyrom Name Dispute

WHAT'S in a name? Just ask Ambassador Dora Grosomanidou.

The head of Greece's liaison office in Skopje paid the price for crossing the Greek foreign ministry's line on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) name dispute in an interview with the Financial Times. Her statements in a sunshine journalism insert on Fyrom published on July 5, led to her being recalled to Athens.

"Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been recognised under its constitutional name by more than half of the members of the United Nations, " Grosomanidou told the Financial Times.

That statement suggested that Athens must reconcile itself to accepting Fyrom's constitutional name of "Republic of Macedonia", despite the fact that repeated statements in recent months by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis have indicated that Greece could veto Fyrom's accession to the European Union and Nato if Fyrom does not change its name.

Karamanlis' campaign speeches have been especially sharp towards Fyrom, calling on Skopje to reach a compromise on the name dispute and abandon "irredentist propaganda".

As Grosomanidou told the Financial Times, "the current situation has been a problem that's obvious to everybody, including Greece...Formally, there is no problem for Skopje to become a member of Nato or the EU under the name it has been registered at the UN," she said, noting that a solution "would be desirable beforehand",

While Greece may accept Skopje's Nato accession as "Fyrom" next spring if no settlement is reached, to avoid a clash with Washington, all Greek politicians agree that a name compromise is necessary before any Greek parliament ratifies Fyrom's EU accession.

The issue is especially sensitive in the pre-election period, as the ultra­rightwing LAOS party that draws votes from New Democracy's base has made rejection of any compromise on the name dispute a banner issue. That hardline stance appeals especially to voters in northern Greece, where LAOS is stronger.

Bakoyannis decided on July 9 to bring Grosomanidou back to Athens early after her explanation of her statements to ministry officials was deemed unsatisfactory.

The foreign ministry council that determines diplomatic postings had already approved Grosomanidou's mandated return to Athens after a decade abroad, but while she was to have returned in October, she was recalled now.

Alexandra Papadopoulou, who until now was posted at Greece's permanent mission to the United Nations, where bilateral talks on the name dispute are held, has been promoted to ambassador and will serve as Greece's new envoy to Skopje.

George Gilson

(Posting Date 18 July 2007)

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