THE legal game ended in a tie. The name game, which has been played for almost two decades now, will probably take much longer to end. The dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ended on December 5, with neither of the two countries being able to claim a clear victory.
Fyrom was satisfied to hear from the Hague-based court that Greece did violate the 1995 Interim Accord by objecting to its Nato membership in April 2008. Greece, on the other hand, was satisfied to hear that the UN court rejected Fyrom’s request to order Greece “to refrain from any future conduct that violates its obligation under Article 11, paragraph 1, of the Interim Accord”.
The Greek government was also pleased by the statement on the ICJ ruling by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary-General, who noted that the ruling does not affect the decision taken by Nato allies at the Bucharest summit in 2008. “We agreed that an invitation will be extended to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached,” Rasmussen said.
Moreover, the statement issued on December 7 after the Nato Council meeting in Brussels, at the level of foreign ministers, made no mention of the ICJ ruling, despite such a request by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Fyrom government interpreted the ruling in a different way. Welcoming the court’s decision, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki argued that it “precludes Greece from continuing its efforts to block my country from joining Nato and the European Union”.
However, as the Greek foreign ministry noted in a written statement, “The judgement does not relate, and could not relate, to the decision-making process of Nato, nor to the substantive criteria and requirements set forth by the alliance for the admission of new members within it.”
It is worth noting that both sides agree that the ICJ judgement does not address the issue of the differences over the name of Fyrom and they express their will to find a mutually acceptable solution, under the auspices of the United Nations.
In its ruling, the ICJ dismissed Greece’s claim that it was justified in blocking Fyrom’s candidacy to Nato, because the latter had already breached the Interim Accord. The judges noted that only one breach had been established – the use of a prohibited symbol in its flag in 2004 – and that Fyrom had discontinued using the symbol, the Vergina sun, that year.