When NATO countries meet for their summit in Chicago
this May, four countries will be vying for membership in the transatlantic
alliance. For the small Balkan country of Macedonia, the only thing holding it back
is its name.
Bosnia still has
some constitutional reforms to enact before it can be eligible
for NATO membership. Georgia, recent named an "aspirant" NATO member, has
its bid tied up by the Russian occupation of two of its
territories. Montenegro has been granted its NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP),
the final step before membership, and is
moving towards accession at a steady pace. But for
Macedonia, which was granted MAP status way back in 1999, there likely won't be
any formal membership invitation in Chicago because NATO member Greece is still
demanding that the Republic
of Macedonia change its name.
"Macedonia's bid was
blocked by Greece because of a 17-year row over the country's name," the BBC reported
at the time of NATO's 2008 summit in Bucharest. "Athens says it implies a
territorial claim on its northern province -- also called Macedonia -- and
wants the former Yugoslav republic to change its name to New or Upper
Now, four years later, the dispute is no closer to
being solved. Tuesday, 54 members of Congress wrote
President Barack Obama to ask him to
break the logjam.
"We strongly urge your administration to make sure
that NATO finally offers the Republic of Macedonia its well deserved formal
invitation to join the alliance during the Chicago summit," reads the letter,
led by Reps. Candice Miller (R-MI)
and Mike Turner (R-OH).
The letter points out that Macedonia has achieved
all membership criteria to merit a NATO membership invitation and quotes Obama
as saying in April 2009: "I look forward to the day when we can welcome
Macedonia into the alliance."
Macedonia was the staging area for NATO operations
in Kosovo in 1990, offered refuge to 360,000 Kosovars, and has fought alongside
NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the letter states. "If Macedonia can
protect the tent of NATO, Macedonia should be able to sleep in the tent of
NATO," it reads.
Congressional support for Macedoniaa's accession is
also codified two bills in Congress. The Senate's
version of the NATO Enhancement Act of 2012 was introduced by
Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN) and the House version was introduced by
the dispute over the name of the country is still standing in the way.
President Joseph Biden met with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola
Gruevski in Washington in February 2011, after which the White House said
in a statement, "The Vice President expressed
the hope that Macedonia and Greece resolve together the longstanding ‘name
issue' so that Macedonia can move forward on seeking NATO membership and
fulfilling its Euro-Atlantic aspirations."
December, advocates of Macedonia's NATO accession thought they had found the
solution, when the International Court of Justice
by a 15-1 vote that Greece had breached its international obligations by
objecting to NATO membership for the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," a
name the Macedonians believe is a reasonable compromise.
for the Obama administration, that ruling hasn't changed the state of the
dispute. Asked for comment by The Cable,
National Security Council spokesman Tommy
Vietor referred to the following statement issued at the 2008 Bucharest summit:
We recognise the hard work
and the commitment demonstrated by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
to NATO values and Alliance operations. We commend them for their
efforts to build a multi-ethnic society. Within the framework of the UN,
many actors have worked hard to resolve the name issue, but the Alliance has
noted with regret that these talks have not produced a successful
outcome. Therefore we agreed that an
invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as
soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. We
encourage the negotiations to be resumed without delay and expect them to be
concluded as soon as possible.
"Allies remain committed to this
position," Vietor said.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images