22:03 GMT26 January 2020
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    Macedonia: The Magic Word to NATO (or Not)?

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    The issue of Macedonia's constitutional name, which has long been an obstacle to its membership in NATO and the EU, might finally be resolved this year as Skopje and Athens signaled their desire to end the stalemate as soon as possible.

    Greece had hitherto used its veto for decades to obstruct the consensus agreement that both organizations need in order to admit new members, arguing that its northern neighbor's name implies territorial pretensions to the Greek region of Macedonia. The Republic of Macedonia, which is what the country is officially known as, says that this is nonsense and that its name pays homage to the ancient region of Macedonia without laying claim to any land within Greece's contemporary borders.

    The name issue has many historical nuances that incite impassioned responses from both sides, but the geopolitical relevance of all of this to the present day is that the two countries are now very serious about resolving this dispute and consequently paving the way for Macedonia's accelerated membership into NATO and the EU, provided of course that they can surmount this major obstacle. Macedonia's new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has vowed to implement a solution in the near future, and while Greece is more than happy to see its northern neighbor seriously consider a compromise name and essentially disown its entire identity, some nationalist voices are insistent that the word "Macedonia" not be used at all. It's already going to be a gargantuan task for Zaev to convince his electorate to approve of any other name besides the existing constitutional one of the Republic of Macedonia in any presumably forthcoming referendum, so potentially setting the prerequisite that this word can't be used will probably make it impossible for him to push ahead with this by any democratic measures.

    Nevertheless, Greece is increasingly insistent that this be the case, thus inadvertently throwing a monkey wrench into the US' plans to speedily incorporate Macedonia — or whatever else it might be legally called by the time everything is said and done — into the two blocs. While the tiny landlocked country might in and of itself not appear too important to outside observers, it represents the latest step in NATO and the EU's efforts to expand into the final continental frontier of the Balkans.

    Marija Kotovska, Macedonian journalist who previously worked as a long-time correspondent in Athens, and Alex Christoforou, President and writer for TheDuran.com, joined our discussion.

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    Macedonia's constitutional name, NATO, Macedonia, Greece
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