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Fyrom regains its right to join NATO… and the EU. Greece whatever!

Court meeting (credit: ICJ / Jeroen Bouman)

(BRUSSELS2) Macedonia, or rather the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has the right to apply for NATO membership. And Greece could not oppose it as it did at the Alliance summit in Bucharest in 2008 (*).

This was ruled by the International Court of Justice on Monday (December 5). Without going into all the legal details, we can retain two or even three aspects of this judgment: jurisdiction, interpretation of the agreement, the official flag and that of the army.

First, the ICJ recognizes itself as competent to judge membership in an organization like NATO, there is no "defense" exception. Which might not be obvious at first.

Next, it considers that the interim agreement signed between the two parties on September 13, 1995 is clear: Greece will not " will not oppose (Fyrom/Macedonia)'s application for admission to international, multilateral or regional organizations and institutions of which (Greece) is a member, nor to participation in such organizations and institutions. However, (Greece) reserves the right to raise objections to such a request or such participation if (Fyrom/Macedonia) is to be endowed in these organizations or institutions with a designation different from that provided for by (... ) United Nations Security Council Resolution 817/1993”. The Court considers that by having indicated its desire to see the name of Macedonia recognized upon joining NATO, Fyrom was only expressing a desire, which it had every right to do. That doesn't mean she had to be endowed with this name ". It was only then that Greece had the right - at least in matters of name - to raise an objection. Conversely, nothing prevents Greece from raising objections on other grounds.

However, the Court does not annul the decision taken by NATO in Bucharest. " The applicant (FYROM) don't ask him" ; but only "to determine whether (Greece) has by its conduct failed to fulfill its obligations under the Interim Agreement". There is therefore no injunction for NATO to review its position. But by removing a major obstacle to membership, the ICJ removes an obstacle on the road to NATO membership; it suffices for Fyrom to repeat its request.

Finally, the International Court of Justice recognizes that Fyrom/Macedonia has also contravened the agreement at least once by leaving its army " use the symbol that appeared on its national flag before the interim agreement”, while the latter prohibits it.

Comment: This stop makes Fyrom's route to the European Union more direct. We can, in fact, easily transpose this judgment to the situation in the EU, and Greece could no longer oppose the start of accession, at least by relying on the interim agreement. On the other hand, nothing would prevent it from opposing it, chapter by chapter (at the opening of negotiations or at the closing), for other reasons. Which cannot be lacking in a diplomat who is often not stingy with "objections".

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) Fyrom was admitted to participate in the partnership for peace in 1995, then in the action plan for accession in 1999. Its candidacy was examined at the Bucharest summit on 2 and 3 April 2008 but rejected, l Alliance believing that the country would only be invited to join if "a mutually acceptable solution to the question of its name has been found".

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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