Greeks get slap on wrist over Macedonia

GREECE has broken European law by putting a trade embargo on Macedonia, a spokesman for the European Commission said yesterday. But though the country's EU colleagues united in criticism of the move, they did little more than administer a slap on the wrist.

The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, will raise the issue when he visits Athens next Monday and Tuesday, British sources say.

Greece disputes the right of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to use a name that is also used for an adjacent Greek province, saying that this constitutes a claim on Greek territory. It also wants Skopje, as Greece calls the state, to change its constitution and stop using what Athens claims are uniquely Greek national symbols. To force concessions, it closed the port to certain imports for Macedonia, which may include oil.

But EU states are supposed to adhere to a common trade regime, maintain a common foreign policy and keep each other informed about their actions. The decision by the Greek government last week to block Macedonian imports through the port of Salonika was a 'clear infraction' of EU trade rules and case law, the spokesman said yesterday. The Commission's legal services had asked for an explanation from Athens, he added.

Jacques Delors, the Commission President, yesterday reminded the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, that as the guardian of the EU founding treaty, the Commission had a duty to see that it was respected. The Commission seems to be paving the way for legal action in the European Court of Justice if Athens does not budge.

The Commission has also dispatched Hans van den Broek, the Foreign Affairs Commissioner, to Skopje and Athens to attempt to solve the bilateral problem. Greece is particularly angry that its EU partners and the US recognised Macedonia and sent diplomats there against Greek wishes and without obtaining guarantees from the regime. To some extent it has got what it wanted: an international focus on the problem. If an international conference is convened on the Balkans, Greece will push for a solution to the problem there.

However, as ministers met in Brussels yesterday, there seemed to be little appetite for any sustained attack on Greece. The atmosphere was described as 'firm' by British government sources; a series of diplomatic demarches have been made; and yesterday the Foreign Office called in the Greek ambassador. But at the moment, Greece is still promising an 'explanation'.

The Greek action comes at a difficult time. Athens currently holds the presidency of the European Union, a rotating post that lasts six months. Policy in the Balkans is one of the most important issues on the agenda, and Greece is in a sensitive position. None of Greece's partners seems keen to over-antagonise the government, mainly because they do not wish to cause a damaging split. They are also aware that much of the government's rhetoric is for public consumption.

News
people

Arts and Entertainment
JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Cloud Support Engineer

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a team player who likes...

Recruitment Genius: Skilled Machinist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled machini...

Recruitment Genius: Toolmaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled toolmak...

Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; up to £55k

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game