As the International Court of Justice in The Hague prepares to deliver its ruling in the case of Macedonia against Greece on December 5, both sides hope the outcome will favour them.
Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian delegation in the court | Photo by: ICJ
The court is expected to rule on whether Greece breached the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord that regulated relations between the two states by blocking Macedonia’s accession to NATO in 2008.
Under the agreement Greece agreed not to impede the accession of its neighbour to international organizations as long as it used a provisional UN reference, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM for short.
Macedonia decided to sue Greece shortly after the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, after Greece used the NATO solidarity principle to prevent Macedonia from joining the alliance.
At the main hearing held in March this year, Greece argued that it did not actually employ a veto at the summit in Bucharest. Greece insists that NATO countries at the summit reached a consensus not to let Macedonia join as long as the bilateral name dispute was not settled.
Greece in addition insisted that Macedonia was the party that broke the accord by taking a hard-line stance over the issue of its name and by effectively stealing Greek history by renaming airports, highways and sport arenas after heroes of Greek antiquity.
Greece has asked the court to pronounce itself incompetent to decide in this case.
The suit in The Hague is a direct consequence of the long-standing “name” dispute between Macedonia and Greece.
Greece insists that use of the name "Macedonia" by its neighbour implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.
Macedonia on the other hand sees the demand to change its name as insulting and as an attack on the country's identity.
Both countries in the 1990s bound themselves to take part in talks under UN auspices until they reached a compromise solution.
But no substantial talks have taken place in almost one year and the Greek economic crisis has additionally derailed the agenda.
Since 2009, Greece has also blocked the start of Macedonia’s EU accession talks, citing the name dispute.
The World Court has no tools to enforce its decisions on countries. But officials in Skopje believe that a positive ruling for Macedonia would at least shift the terms of the argument in Macedonia's favour.