Macedonia goes to court

This is an interesting development. For those out there following the case of Macedonia (too long to call it the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia + countries should be allowed to call themselves as they see fit), this is a development of considerable interest. So, Macedonia brought Greece to court (MK government’s announcement here, short news here) because of the principle “pacta sunt servanda”. Greece recently blocked the invitation to Macedonia to join NATO and so here we go…after 17 years the issue will land on the International Court of Justice desk.

This comes at least to me as a surprise, but on a second thought – was there any way out? In the last 17 years both NATO and the EU have tried to steer away from this issue, saying it was not related to the memebership in the two organisations. NATO was to fall first at the Summit in Bucharest this April, EU followed suit with the European Council meeting in June (PDF).

The EU was, to use a nice metaphor that Jon really likes, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. In addition to the June European Council, the elections in Macedonia just before didn’t go very smooth (see news here). The long awaited invitation to start accession negotiations with the EU therefore didn’t follow with the Progress Reports on the 5th November.

But let’s speculate on the reasons why Macedonia made this move:

1) To set the issue aside of any pending membership applications: this would be smart, if it wasn’t for one detail = they did so unilaterally. It would have been better of course to agree with Greece to submit the issue of the name as such to the court, instead of waiting for the “mediators” to suggest a solution. Now the suit is only about the Greeks’ role, not about the name issue

2) It was done for domestic political reasons: after the less-than-perfect elections and the negative response from the EU, both the Government and the President (although less-than-friends) were perhaps happy to distract the public.

3) There is nothing they can lose: any move towards the EU will not come in the foreseeable future, unless the name is settled. After the offer of candidate status was made to Serbia (=that would put Macedonia and Serbia at the same stage in the enlargement process), the Macedonian authorities simply let it go.

Probably it was a combination of all three. Let’s see how it goes…Bear in mind Macedonia still has some internal issues to solve.

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