Robin O'Neil: The name issue is the most bizarre dispute in Europe

Skopje, 9 February 2011 (MIA) - The Greece-Macedonia name row is the most bizarre diplomatic dispute in Europe today, says British diplomat and first international name issue mediator, Robin O'Neil.

"No one outside of Greece can perceive why should Macedonia change its name. What is Greece's national interest in doing this? Greece has not suffered in any way as a result of Macedonia's existence under the current name in the past 20 years, and Greece never opposed Macedonia's existence as part of SFR Yugoslavia", says O'Neil in an interview with Macedonian Television.

According to him, the consistent Greek opposition to Macedonia's NATO and EU accession is especially difficult to understand.

"It is difficult to see this other than Greece's wish to weaken and even destroy Macedonia. However, it is in Greece's national interest to have stable and successful neighbors, both in security and commercial terms. And the condition for future stability and success of the Balkans is for all regional countries to become members of NATO and EU, which provide security, friendly relations, close cooperation and commercial benefits as a result of the single market", says the British diplomat.

O'Neil believes the Macedonian Government can choose from two directions in order to accelerate the country's NATO and EU accession despite the opposition by Greece. The first one is to resume UN-led talks and the second one is the 1995 bilateral Interim Treaty.

"The experience of so many fruitless years despite Nimetz's efforts is not positive, whereas current statements by Greece do not herald that an agreement will be reached soon. I hope I am wrong. In any case, I am certain that the Macedonian Government should continue to work with Nimetz in finding a permanent solution to the problem", he adds.

As former mediator in the dispute, O'Neil advises the country to apply for NATO and EU membership under the interim reference fYRoM and wait for the ruling of the International Court of Justice.

According to him, other NATO and EU members could do three things, one being to put pressure on the Greek government to engage in the talks in the interest of the Balkans and Europe, but if it refuses to do this, member-states could say that other Balkan countries cannot become part of the two organizations until Macedonia joins. The third option is for NATO member-states to agree on creating a special status for Macedonia in the Alliance.

"This would be fair if one takes into consideration what Macedonia has done for NATO. However, this cannot be considered a long-term alternative regarding Macedonia's full-fledged accession", underlines British diplomat Robin O'Neil.

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