ANROM: the Almost NATO-member Republic of Macedonia
ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images As expected, NATO has decided not to extend an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia — excuse me, I mean “the Former Yugoslav Constitutional Republic of Upper Northwestern Macedonia, Skopje.” That’s right, Greece stuck to its nationalistic guns on the name issue today, carrying out its threat to block NATO membership if ...
ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images
As expected, NATO has decided not to extend an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia — excuse me, I mean “the Former Yugoslav Constitutional Republic of Upper Northwestern Macedonia, Skopje.” That’s right, Greece stuck to its nationalistic guns on the name issue today, carrying out its threat to block NATO membership if Macedonia didn’t agree (and it didn’t) to call itself the “Republic of Upper Macedonia,” the “Republic of Macedonia, Skopje,” or some comparably wordy derivative.
Macedonians didn’t take the rejection well. After Greece blocked accession talks, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and his delegation walked out of the meeting. Antonio Milososki, Foreign Minister, told reporters:
We are [in Bucharest] today to announce that we are leaving the summit. We feel it necessary to be with our people today.”
Not a bad idea. Their people needed all the comforting they could get. Back at home, Macedonian stocks suffered a record blow, with the Macedonian Bourse Index losing 10.4 percent of its total value after it became clear that the country would not get an invite.
Acceptance into NATO carries great weight for these small, former communist countries. Neighboring President Bamir Topi of Albania, whose country did receive a coveted NATO invitation, proclaimed, “This is the most important decision in the history of Albanian people… With this decision we are definitely separated from Yalta,” referring to the 1945 conference of the “Big Three” at which Stalin claimed Albania for the communist bloc.
But NATO membership is more than symbolic for Macedonia, which narrowly missed a Kosovo-style ethnic war in 2001 thanks to an EU/NATO-brokered peace agreement. The country may now decide to pull out of U.N.-led name negotiations entirely, in which case Greece will repeat its power play on the EU front. If Macedonia is knocked off its current EU accession path because of a Macedonian identity issue, the state’s large, pro-EU Albanian minority will not be happy. And all we need in the Balkans is one more unhappy ethnic minority.
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