NATO Enlargement -- The View from Athens

An important NATO summit will take place next week in Bucharest, Romania. Our discussion will focus on two main issues: the first, NATO enlargement and developments in the Western Balkans; the second, an evaluation of the Alliance's operations in Afghanistan (ISAF) and Kosovo (KFOR). In both of these U.N. mandated operations, there is an important Greek contribution of 2,000 men.

Greece, for over 15 years now, has held the position that the future of Southeastern Europe lies in its integration into the Euroatlantic Institutions. On the basis of this strategic choice, we support NATO's "open door" policy. An open door policy, however, must be based on the principles of good neighborly relations and allied solidarity.

Greece supports the enlargement of NATO in the Western Balkans, with the invitations to Croatia and Albania. Ιt is ready also to welcome the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), provided that our northern neighbor shifts from their nationalistic logic and agree to a mutually agreeable name for international use that differentiates the new Balkan state from the Greek province of Macedonia; a name that will not be a vehicle for propaganda and irredentism against a neighboring NATO member.

Athens has shown its good will towards Skopje in many ways. It has supported its neighbor, both politically and economically, ranking as the number one foreign investor in that country, with $1 billion invested capital that has generated 30,000 new jobs. Most recently, we went the extra mile, or rather the most important mile, when we expressed our readiness to agree to a composite name with a geographic qualifier. This is a major shift from Greece's initial position, which excluded any use of the term "Macedonia", in the name of our neighbor.

Some have questioned our stance on the name issue and the possibility of a Greek veto at the NATO summit, if the name issue is not resolved by then. Some are suggesting that we are re-fighting old battles, not seeing the "big picture", that we are drawn into the past.

My answer to these claims is that the name issue is not a bilateral one. It is an international issue, which concerns our broader region. Directly, or indirectly, it concerns NATO and the U.N. And, if not resolved now, it may fester to poison future generations, undermining stability and cooperation in the 21st century.

We hope that with active U.N. mediation and U.S. involvement, a resolution of this issue will be achieved before the Bucharest summit.

On this issue, we are not alone. 115 members of the U.S. Congress, from both parties, support House Resolution 356, expressing the "sense of the House of Representatives that FYROM should stop hostile activities and propaganda against Greece, and should work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually acceptable official name".

A similar resolution, S.R. 300, was introduced in the Senate by Senators Menendez, Obama, Snowe.

The immediate settlement of the name issue before the NATO Summit in a mutually agreeable way, will allow Greece, the U.S.'s strongest ally in the Balkans, to support FYROM's membership to NATO and ultimately to the European Union, a strategic goal also shared by the U.S.

A prerequisite for a proper relationship as allies and partners is that of good neighborliness. We have lived together through good and bad times, we have shared tragedy, but also share hope for a bright future. Let's leave behind the former and invest in the latter.

Greece has called upon FYROM's leadership to act responsibly and show political courage and meet Greece half way. It will be a responsible move on the part of an aspiring candidate, a move that will win them a European future, a future of stability, peace and economic prosperity, based on the principles upon which NATO and the European Union are founded. Alexandros P. Mallias is Ambassador of Greece to the United States.