Nimetz’s Name Proposal for Macedonia Revealed

November 11, 2014
BIRN reveals the name that the UN mediator suggested for Macedonia in April 2013 plus his other proposals for resolving the years-long dispute.

The proposal has never been published before in its integral form.

Ahead of Wednesday’s fresh round of talks in New York between Macedonia and Greece over the former’s name, BIRN has obtained the last official name proposal that the UN mediator in the dispute, Matthew Nimetz, offered both sides.

The document is dated April 9, 2013, which corresponds to the date of the mediator’s meeting with negotiators from Macedonia and Greece at UN headquarters, after which it was announced that Nimetz had revealed a fresh name proposal.

The document that BIRN has obtained refers to the name “Upper Republic of Macedonia”.

This matches Greek and Macedonian media reports of the time, as well as statements by the head of Macedonia’s junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, Ali Ahmeti.

The proposal has never been published before in its integral form.

This was the first formal written proposal coming from the UN mediator since the 2008 NATO summit in Romania, where Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO accession.

This excludes the so-called October package of 2008 and its subsequent modified version, from July 2009, which Nimetz himself named a “working paper”.

The proposal formed part of a broader international plan to end the logjam over Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process, which the then EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, was informally coordinating.

In autumn 2012, Fuele proposed to the EU member states that Macedonia should start EU membership talks; the solution of the “name” dispute would then be left to the early stage of the talks, within one or two years.

The proposal that BIRN obtained is the same one that should therefore have led to a solution of the name dispute in the early phase of the Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

However, Fuele’s proposition was already undermined even before the “events” in the Macedonian parliament in December 2012, when opposition legislators and journalists were expelled from the chamber minutes before the ruling parties adopted the budget for 2013.
The expulsion led to a political crisis in Macedonia, after which most EU member countries lost their enthusiasm for Fuele’s plans for Macedonia.

Moreover, although Macedonian authorities, prodded by international representatives, timidly signaled approval for Nimetz’s proposal as a basis for resolving the dispute, Greece rejected the mediator’s proposition outright.

What the proposal includes:

Analysis of the elements of the proposal may explain the causes for the standpoints adopted by Skopje and Athens at the time.

 “Makedonski” and “Makedonikos” instead of “Macedonian”
 The use of the adjective in Nimetz’s latest proposal, like Macedonian/Makedonski for the language or “Makedonsko/Macedonian” for the nationality, is a consequence of the Greek standpoint that “there should be a way for third parties to differentiate the separate Macedonian identities that exist within Macedonia and Greece, and how Macedonians from Macedonia and Macedonians from Greece will be designated in other languages”.

The ideologist of this strategy is the Greek historian and former advisor in the Greek Foreign Ministry, Evangelos Kofos. On the political level, this approach was promoted by Dora Bakoyannis, Greek Foreign Minister from 2006 to 2009.

Kofos devised his thesis in 2005, which he later explained in more detail in 2009. According to him, the Macedonian language should be designated in English as the “Makedonski language” while ethnic Macedonians should be described as “Makedontsi”. Applying the same rule to Greek Macedonians, Kofos says that in English they should be translated as “Makedones” with an adjective “Makedonikos” [derived from the Greek Μακεδόνες]

The place of the adjective “Upper” in the composite name was one factor.

Greece wanted the adjective placed immediately before the word Macedonia, as in “Republic of Upper Macedonia”, while Nimetz’s proposition put the adjective before the word Republic, as in “Upper Republic of Macedonia”, which made it more acceptable to the Macedonian side.

In the part of the proposal linked to the issue of national identity, Nimetz proposed that the Macedonian language be named “Macedonian/Makedonski”. He gave an example of how this would work in practice: “The document will be translated into English, French, Macedonian/Makedonski and Russian.”

Nimetz’s coined phrase for the language was a compromise between Macedonia’s insistence on use of the term “Macedonian” and the Greek stance, which was that “Macedonian” is unacceptable, and that the most they could accept was “Makedonski” – which is the pronunciation of the word for the Macedonian language, in Latin transliteration.

Nimetz proposed an even more complicated solution when it came to determining “nationality”. In Macedonia, this term is translated as “nacionalnost”, and is more associated with ethnicity than with the more common international association with the idea of citizenship.

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz [middle] with the Greek and Macedonian name negotiators | Photo by: UN/Eskinder Debebe

The European Convention on Nationality, which the Macedonia has ratified, thus defines “nationality” as “the legal bond between a person and a State and does not indicate the person’s ethnic origin.”

To meet this difference in perception, Nimetz offered a parallel use of two phrases: “Upper Republic of Macedonia” and “Makedonsko/Macedonian”.

The practical example for this, contained in Nimetz’s proposal was the following sentence: “She is a citizen of Upper Republic of Macedonia; alternate: She is Makedonsko/Macedonian citizen.”

Not ‘Erga Omnes’ enough for Greece:

The proposal also defined the scope of use of the new compound name and of the references to language and nationality.

It said that they would be used “erga omnes [towards all] in all multilateral official contexts, including treaties, agreements and official documentation”.

 Greece insists on domestic use of new name:
 The announcement of the Greek Foreign Ministry from September 29, 2014 is an official document of the Greek authorities that most directly reflects Athens’ standpoint.

“Greece’s position in favor of a compound name, with a geographical qualifier before the word ‘Macedonia’, and not before the word ‘Republic’, to be used in relation to everyone (erga omnes), for all uses, domestic and international, has been thus formulated for many years now and has been stated repeatedly in the Hellenic Parliament as well as internationally, in multilateral and bilateral meetings,” the announcement reads.

“We assume that it is obvious to everyone that the provisional name (Τhe former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), under which our neighbouring country joined the UN in 1993, and with which it participates in a large number of international organizations, actions and meetings, is a compound name with qualifying modifiers before the word “Republic” and not before the word ‘Macedonia’.
“This compound provisional name is not used in relation to everyone (erga omnes), but in the international organizations and in the meetings and actions that they organize bilaterally with a large number of countries, but unfortunately not domestically, not in passports, and not bilaterally with those countries that have recognized FYROM under its so-called constitutional name.

“This is a state of affairs that violates international law and must change. The responsible and clear Greek stance is the only one that leads to the changing of this state of affairs.”

However, while the term “erga omnes” soothed some Greek concerns, the definition substantially differed from the one that the Greek side insisted on. Greece wants the new compound used at home in Macedonia as well as in its relations with other countries.

The proposal further envisaged the UN Secretary General informing all UN members about the compromise name and recommending them to use it in all official contexts.

Adoption of obligatory documents regarding usage of the compound name in bilateral relations was not envisaged. This allowed for the possibility of some countries continuing to use Macedonia’s constitutional name in direct communications.

The name “Република Македонија” [Republic of Macedonia], according to the proposition, could also continue to be used within Macedonia.

Usage of the new name in Macedonia’s passports was not explicitly noted in the proposal so it remained unclear whether this was implied in the phrase “official documentation”.

The new name would be obligatory in the UN, the EU and NATO, while Greece would not object to the integration of the country under the name “Upper Republic of Macedonia”.

Concerning commercial use of the term “Macedonia” and “Macedonian”, the proposal urged both sides to reach agreements based on non-exclusivity.

For example, there could be a “Macedonian wine, produce of Greece” and a “Macedonian wine, product of Upper Republic of Macedonia.”

The mediator did not suggest, directly or indirectly, that Macedonia make any constitutional changes during the phase of implementation of the solution.

He implicitly rejected the idea of a Macedonia staging a referendum on this issue. Macedonia would need only to take “binding, definitive and irrevocable national processes, including parliamentary and executive action,” the proposal noted.