Greek refusal to recognise Macedonia comes under fire

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The Independent Online
DENMARK'S departing Foreign Minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, accused Greece yesterday of holding the EC hostage and failing to act in the Community spirit by refusing to recognise Macedonia as a sovereign state.

This, probably his last act in office, created a diplomatic incident. The Greek government asked EC foreign ministers at their next formal meeting on 1 February to sanction Mr Ellemann-Jensen's 'unacceptable behaviour'.

At the United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, Macedonia's application for membership has been held up by the split in the Community. Greece is using all its leverage to have Macedonia's application rejected, and is lobbying Britain, France and Spain to abstain when the vote occurs.

Mr Ellemann-Jensen was on blistering form despite the Danish political crisis that has forced his resignation just as he was preparing to step into the political limelight with Denmark's six- month presidency of the EC.

'Here you have a very small country with problems of immense magnitude that has managed to keep a fragile balance between the nationalities and has maintained a coalition government that groups the very factions fighting each other elsewhere,' he said of Macedonia. 'I fear we might see a second Sarajevo develop there if we cannot give them our support.'

Greece refuses to recognise the name Macedonia, which it says is part of its own heritage. The French have suggested that the problem, which has run for more than a year, be submitted to international arbitration. Both Greece and Macedonia would have to accept the result. Macedonia maintains its credentials have already been vetted and approved by the Badinter Commission, appointed last year to rule on which of the former Yugoslav republics deserved sovereign recognition. Macedonia met the strict criteria, but recognition has been held up by the dispute over the name.

Greece's stance had called the EC's consensual approach to foreign policy into question and was, said Mr Ellemann-Jensen, 'tantamount to questioning European solidarity'. The 11 other member states were, Mr Ellemann-Jensen said, 'sick and tired of this problem and feel Greece has not acted with community spirit'.