Macedonia Wins a Name Dispute Ruling from the World Court. Nothing Changes

Those learned in global affairs have probably stumbled across the terribly inane dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the formal name of the country of Macedonia.  In official circles, Macedonia is known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — FYROM.  The thing is, Macedonia just wants to be known as “Macedonia.” Or, perhaps the “Republic of Macedonia.” It understandably doesn’t want to keep that ‘Yugoslav’ modifier.

Sounds reasonable, right? Wrong, say the Greeks. Greece, you see, has a province called Macedonia. For a number of reasons, they object to Macedonians naming their country “Macedonia.”

It’s very silly dispute from the perspective of us outsiders, but there are some seriously hot-headed nationalists for which this dispute is super intense.   It also has some profound consequences for international relations. In recent years, Greece has blocked Macedonia’s entry into NATO and the European Union because of the name dispute.

This brings us to the latest wrinkle in the ever-evolving saga. Today, the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled that when Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO and EU bids, Greece violated a 1995 agreement saying it would not use the name dispute as a pretext to block Macedonia in international institutions. From the Washington Post:

The victory is mostly symbolic but it may make it politically difficult for Greece to block Macedonia’s entry into NATO if it reapplies. It also lends moral weight to Macedonian protests that Greece’s moves to block it from joining the European Union are unfair.

However, the U.N. court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, did not fine Greece or order it to refrain from similar moves in the future. The ruling’s central finding that Greece “has violated its obligation…(under) the interim accord, constitutes appropriate satisfaction,” said presiding Judge Hisashi Owada, reading the written ruling.

So, there you have it.