Greece breached a United Nations-facilitated accord with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia when it blocked its neighbour’s attempt to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled today.
In a 15-to-one decision, the ICJ ruled that Greece breached its obligations under Article 11 of the so-called Interim Accord of 13 September 1995 when it objected to the NATO candidacy of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at a summit in Bucharest in 2008.
The Interim Accord was reached as part of UN-led international efforts to resolve the ongoing dispute between the two countries over the appropriate name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The agreement details the differences between the countries on the name issue and obliges them to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach a settlement.
In its decision the ICJ – also known as the World Court – noted that Article 11 states that Greece agrees to not object to any applications to join international organizations or institutions by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, unless the country uses a different name.
The judges, who are based in The Hague, dismissed Greece’s claim that it was justified to block the candidacy because the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had already breached the Interim Accord.
The judges noted that only one breach had been established – the use of a prohibited symbol in 2004 – and that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had discontinued using the symbol that year.
They also stated that Greece had failed to establish that it had objected to the NATO candidacy in response to that specific breach.
In a statement issued after the decision, Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said the ruling deserved careful study by the governments of the two countries.
“I have been in communication with both governments in recent days and have urged them to view this event as an opportunity to think constructively about their mutual relationship and to consider a renewed initiative to reach a definitive solution to the ‘name’ issue,” he said.
“At this juncture, a forward-looking attitude that emphasizes solutions rather than differences would help make a lasting solution possible. I have informed the parties that I stand ready to work with them at the earliest opportunity and recommend intensifying the efforts to find a permanent solution.”