Community split over Macedonia UN move

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The Independent Online
A NEW split in the European Community over how to handle Macedonia's application for membership of the United Nations has shattered the EC's common foreign policy on the Security Council and could further escalate tensions in the Balkans, if the application for membership by the former Yugoslav republic is rejected as a result.

Over the objections of the EC and the United States, Macedonia has forged ahead with its campaign to win international recognition by applying for UN membership last week. This follows the failure of the Edinburgh summit to recognise it by name because of Greece's vehement objections. In the process, Macedonia has split the Community wide open, much as the demands by Croatia and Bosnia for recognition by the international community did just over a year ago. A compromise suggestion that it tender its application to the UN under a name other than Macedonia was rejected this week. The Council would have unanimously endorsed such a move and the government could then have applied for a name change, which would have immediately have been granted.

Now the Skopje authorities are in an even greater hurry because they fear that the incoming Clinton administration will not be sympathetic to their cause because of the powerful Greek lobby in the Democratic party. They point ominously to the incoming President's spokesman, George Stephanopoulus, as a symbol of Greek power in Washington.

Macedonia may well be rejected in its bid for UN membership and diplomats fear that this could spark further tensions in the Balkans, possibly leading to new outbreaks of violence.

The Greek government has been waging a bitter campaign to prevent Macedonia from being recognised by the international community because it says that the name Macedonia belongs to it. France offered to mediate in the crisis last week, but its efforts have failed amid increasingly acrimonious noises from various quarters.

France, and Spain - which has just joined the Council for two years - have already succumbed to Greek lobbying and have said they will abstain in a vote on Macedonia's application. Hungary, a Council member with large trade interests with the Community has also been pressured to block Macedonia's admission.

Skopje needs the support of nine of the Council's 15 members for its application to succeed, and Britain is agonising over whether to break ranks with its partners and support the application.

In contrast with Macedonia, the EC foreign ministers are united on Bosnia. On Wednesday they gave Bosnia's Serbs six days to accept unconditionally proposals put forth at the Geneva talks. Otherwise, the Community said, it would ask the Security Council to take measures leading to 'the total isolation of an entire community and its citizens . . . Serbia and Montenegro'.

The measures will include enforcement of the air embargo and further measures to isolate Serbia through sanctions, diplomatic sources said.

The UN has sent some 1,000 peace-keepers to Macedonia in a preventive deployment designed to calm tensions on the country's borders with Kosovo and Albania. Of more immediate concern is Greece's refusal to allow vital goods to pass over its border with Macedonia, a move that was condemned by the Danish President of the Council of Ministers, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, on his return from a visit to Skopje on Wednesday.

'I have been told by the Macedonian authorities that not one ecu of the promised medical aid agreed by the Community last September has yet arrived,' Mr Ellemann-Jensen complained. 'Some very serious questions are going to have to be asked of the Greeks about what has happened to this humanitarian aid.'