Macedonia-Greece Lawsuit Starts in the World Court

January 19, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milosevski speaks during a news conference on Nov. 17, 2008 in Skopje. Macedonia launched a complaint Monday before the International Court of Justice against Greece for breaching a UN-backed agreement in a name row ove (Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images)
Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milosevski speaks during a news conference on Nov. 17, 2008 in Skopje. Macedonia launched a complaint Monday before the International Court of Justice against Greece for breaching a UN-backed agreement in a name row ove (Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images)
SOFIA, Bulgaria—Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) started hearings on the lawsuit filed by former Yugoslavian republic Macedonia, against Greece, on Jan. 19. The session, planned to continue at least three days, will focus on procedural issues and will define dates for future submission of arguments by both countries, Balkansight.com reported.

Skopje blamed Athens for violating the stipulations of a 1995 Interim Accord, mediated by the UN, according to which Greece should not interfere with Macedonia’s membership in international alliances, unless the country uses a name different from FYROM (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia).

Last year Greece blocked an invitation to Macedonia by NATO and warned to obstruct its application for entering the European Union. However, Štefan Füle, Czech representative to NATO stated that there was no veto from Greece, but only a consensus on non-invitation.

Foreign minister Antonio Milososki will present Macedonia at the hearings, along with Croatian lawyer Budislav Vukas acting as ad hoc judge. On the Greek part, the hearings will be attended by Greek ambassador to the Netherlands Konstantinos Rallis, ambassador Yiorgos Savvaidis and Foreign Ministry advisor Maria Telalian. Ad hoc judge’s role will be filled by Athens University professor Emmanuel Rukunas.

Established in 1945, the International Court of Justice (also called the World Court) acts as the judicial organ of the UN and settles disputes between sovereign countries. Its rulings are final and cannot be appealed but there are no ways for enforcing verdicts on the sentenced countries.

Taking into consideration the fact that the ruling of the ICJ might take from three to five years, president of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski called the lawsuit “waste of valuable time."
 
The conflict between Greece and Macedonia first sparked in 1991 when Macedonia declared independence from former Yugoslavia. Greece immediately opposed the newly established country’s name, because of the existence of a region carrying the same name, situated in northern Greece. Since then the two countries have not managed to find mutually favorable resolution, despite continuous UN support.

As of November 2008, 125 countries have accepted the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.