Balkan Expert: US and EU Should Pressure Greece to Resolve Macedonia's Name Issue
US diplomat and Balkans expert, Janusz Bugajski, believes that the United States and the European Union must pressure Greece to solve the name dispute with Macedonia and have the country accepted to NATO in a matter of months, while at the same open to open the EU accession process.
Bugajski, who currently works at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington DC, argues that if Greece refuses to abide to international law, it should be cast out from organizations like NATO ad EU.
"I believe that this issue has lasted for too long. We, the United States, and the European Union, need to explain to Greece that it is simply too late to keep having this issue and it needs to be settled. If pressure needs to be applied, fine by me. I believe that the Europeans could have conditioned Greece to solve the issue and resolve its relations with its neighbors, particularly with Macedonia, when they gave Greece financial aid during the crisis. But, it is not too late to achieve this, exerting certain pressure on Greece, even by expelling it from some organizations if it refuses to solve the issue, and in the meantime, to involve Macedonia increasingly, primarily in NATO," Bugajski told the Macedonian Radio Television in an interview in Washington DC.
Asked if this is a frozen conflict in the Balkans, Bugajski says that Macedonia is like a state that is frozen by the Greek veto, and left out from further Western integrations. Bugajski believes that wider reasons to resolve the issue exist, now that the region is caught up in the fall out of the Ukraine crisis.
"Keeping Macedonia out from NATO and the EU is bad for the region. This issue needs to be resolved or bypassed as soon as possible, and have Macedonia join both these organizations. Without EU and NATO membership, Macedonia could gradually fall under the influence of Russia, and not only Macedonia, its neighbors too. Russia is using Macedonia's exclusion from NATO, and the issues between the Balkan countries to increase its influence in the region, and will continue to do so in the future. Greece will be guilty for helping Mr. Putin create instability in the Balkans," Bugajski concludes.
A possible solution to the name issue, Bugajski sees in the 2011 International Court of Justice verdict, which says that Greece violated international law when it vetoed Macedonia's entry into NATO at the 2008 Bucharest Summit. Bugajski believes that the international community should pressure Greece to respect the verdict, the international law, and the 1995 Interim Accord it signed with Macedonia, under which Greece is obliged not to block Macedonia's integration provided it takes place under its interim reference.
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