The Hague (Netherlands): The world court ruled
on Monday that Greece was wrong to block Macedonia`s bid to join
NATO in 2008 because of a long-running dispute over the
fledgling country`s use of the name Macedonia.
In a 15-1 ruling, the court found that Greece`s veto
breached a 1995 deal under which Greece had agreed not to
block Macedonia`s membership in international organisations if
it used the name "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,"
or FYROM, while the matter was submitted to further
negotiations. More than 15 years later, mediation over the
name is still unresolved.
Although the question of Macedonia`s name is sometimes
seen as superficial by outsiders, it is a matter of deep
concern for both sides. The young country has used the name in
one form or another since shortly after World War II, when it
was a province of Yugoslavia, but Greece sees the use of the
name as historically inaccurate at best and a potential threat
to its territorial integrity at worst.
The victory is mostly symbolic but it may make it
politically difficult for Greece to block Macedonia`s entry
into NATO if it reapplies. It also lends moral weight to
Macedonian protests that Greece`s moves to block it from
joining the European Union are unfair.
However, the UN court, formally known as the
International Court of Justice, did not fine Greece or order
it to refrain from similar moves in the future. The ruling`s
central finding that Greece "has violated its obligation...
(under) the interim accord, constitutes appropriate
satisfaction," said presiding Judge Hisashi Owada, reading the
Greece`s Foreign Ministry said today it will continue to
block Macedonia`s attempts to join NATO until the name issue
is resolved. Outside the courtroom, Greece`s Dutch Ambassador
Ioannis Economides called on Macedonia "to resist using
today`s decision to subvert the negotiations".