Macedonian President Slams Greek ‘Embargo’

September 21, 2010
Greece's veto of Macedonia's EU and NATO membership amounts to a trade embargo, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov told the UN General Assembly.

Ivanov, addressing the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, said the economic development of his country was being hampered by its immediate neighbour.

He told the assembly in New York: “It is a fact that Greece is one of the biggest investors in the Republic of Macedonia.

“But it is also a fact that the blockades in the [EU and NATO] integration processes indirectly block the attraction of other investors and investments.”

The president compared the current Greek blockade with Athens’ trade embargo imposed on Macedonia 15 years ago.

He said, although there were different characteristics, the current blockade had the same economic effects on the small country.

Greece imposed a trade embargo on Macedonia in 1994-95.

The blockade ended when Macedonia changed its flag containing the disputed Vergina sun and added an amendment in its constitution to guarantee it had no territorial claims against Greece.

However the bigger dispute between Athens and Skopje – over the official name of the Republic of Macedonia – remains a serious issue between the two.

Athens claims the name implies territorial claims against its northern province, also named Macedonia.

In 2008, the name spat escalated when Athens blocked its smaller neighbour from entering NATO, despite the country using the previously agreed UN provisional reference, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM.

Last autumn, the same happened in the EU, where Greece blocked it from starting accession talks.

During his address, Ivanov expressed hope the name spat will be resolved soon under UN-brokered arbitration.

Macedonia ended last year with a dramatic drop in direct foreign investment, which fell from some €500 million in 2008 to only €100 million in 2009.

The country is also struggling with unemployment at 33.5 per cent.

Official data shows a record 31.1 per cent of the population were officially poor in 2009, up from 28.7 a year earlier.