Macedonia sues Greece for blocking NATO entry

Macedonia has filed a lawsuit against Greece before the International Court of Justice for blocking its NATO membership. Athens blocked the move due to a dispute over Macedonia's name, which is also the name of its northern province.


Macedonia launched a complaint Monday before the International Court of Justice against Greece for breaching a UN-backed agreement in a name row over its NATO membership, the foreign ministry said.

"Macedonia has filed an application with the registrar of the Court to bring Greece into compliance with its legal obligations under the Interim Accord of September 13, 1995," said a statement on the ministry website.

Greece used its veto to block the invitation for Skopje to join the alliance because of their 17-year-old dispute to the right to the name Macedonia -- which is shared by a northern Greek province.

"Article 11 of the 1995 accord obliges Greece not to object to Macedonia's application to join NATO," the ministry's statement said.

"At the NATO summit held in Bucharest in April 2008, however, Greece objected to extending an invitation to Macedonia to join NATO, in flagrant violation of its obligations under the Interim Accord."

In the statement, Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said the legal move was made after serious consideration "for the sole purpose of protecting our rights under the Interim Accord.

"We have thought very carefully before bringing this case, but see no other way for justice to be done and our rights to be protected," Milososki said.

"We hope this action might encourage Greece to bring its actions into compliance with its international legal obligations, and that it might also encourage... a final settlement on outstanding issues in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and cooperation envisaged by the Interim Accord."

Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told AFP Monday that Athens has been considering its response for some time.

"We were aware of this action before it manifested itself," Koumoutsakos said. "We will take the necessary steps at a time of our own choosing."

At the time of Greece's veto, Greek PM Costas Karamanlis had said that "Skopje will be able to become a member of NATO only provided that the name dispute has been resolved.

"The issue is not over... what is over is the illusion of those who believe that they can participate in international affairs without fulfilling basic requirements... The rules must be respected by all," he said.

"Greece's goal is not to humiliate (Macedonia) but to bolster it as a country that is trying to stand on its feet."

Milososki later told reporters that Macedonia was not seeking "an advisory opinion of the court, but expects a final ruling that should be compulsory for both sides."

Macedonia will appoint Croatian judge Budislav Vukas as an ad hoc judge to observe the proces on its behalf, Milososki said at a press conference.

Asked why Skopje had waited so long to lodge the complaint, Milososki said "time and a lot of analysis were needed" before such legal action was taken.

But Macedonia "wants to emphasise that it remains strongly devoted... to the negotiating process with Greece under the UN auspices," he said, adding that Skopje hoped the dispute would be settled "as soon as possible."

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Macedonia, which proclaimed independence after a referendum in 1991, was recognised by the United Nations two years later under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

More than 120 nations including the United States and Russia have recognised the landlocked Balkan country under its constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia.

Negotiations on the name dispute under UN auspices have so far been fruitless.

Macedonia is an official EU candidate nation but one of the hurdles to beginning formal membership talks is the name-row with Greece.

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