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FYROM talks in the final stretch March 9, 2008

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As United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz prepares to invite diplomats from Athens and Skopje to the next phase of talks in a flagging effort to resolve the Macedonia name dispute, Greek government officials are preparing for a flurry of diplomacy.

Nimetz is to invite Adamantios Vassilakos and Nikola Dimitrov, the representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) respectively, for talks in Geneva this week. The envoy, whose latest proposals were rejected by Skopje, is not expected to make any new suggestions but to press FYROM to shift its stance, sources said yesterday. The same sources said talks will continue until the very last moment.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who on Thursday threatened Athens will use its veto against FYROM’s NATO bid, is preparing for a series of talks with European counterparts on the sidelines of an EU summit on Monday. She will then fly to Paris for talks with her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner. Premier Costas Karamanlis will join the summit on Thursday.

Meanwhile FYROM has been promoting its NATO bid with a full-page ad that appeared in several international newspapers yesterday. It argues FYROM’s case for joining NATO and criticizes Greek pressure.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried arrived in Skopje last night for talks on the name dispute. Before his trip he called for “outstanding issues” to be resolved by the first week of April when the NATO summit will begin.

No movement on FYROM March 6, 2008

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EU, NATO push for Skopje compromise; UN envoy’s latest talks inconclusive

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday dug in his heels over the Macedonia name dispute, stressing that Athens will not hesitate to block Skopje from joining NATO unless the disagreement is resolved.

“Greece’s stance is very clear as regards Skopje and we have clarified it absolutely to allies ad partners,” Karamanlis said. “I do not feel that I am under pressure from anyone,” he added, apparently dismissing speculation regarding US attempts to influence Greek policy in this area.

But there was pressure on Karamanlis at home. Thousands of Greeks rallied in the northern city of Thessaloniki yesterday evening, urging the government not to accept a name for the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that could lead to territorial claims on Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

The main rally in Thessaloniki, a street protest organized by the far-right LAOS, was not attended by politicians from other parties. Thessaloniki’s Bishop Anthimos led a separate rally in a local sports stadium.

The United Nations envoy entrusted with solving the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, arrived in the northern city last night to brief Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis following his talks with political leaders in Skopje. Nimetz said the talks had failed to make any headway but delivered an upbeat assessment nonetheless. “I got a lot of encouragement to keep at this task,” Nimetz said. “There is a great interest here to solve this problem,” he added.

Meanwhile, European Union and NATO officials both appeared to nudge Skopje over the name issue. “If we can’t settle this issue, I’m afraid it will have negative ramifications (for EU accession),” the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said. And NATO representative James Appathurai remarked: “Greece has made it clear that it wants to find a solution and that it will participate in talks with an open mind – we hope Skopje’s government does the same.”

Sources said yesterday that US President George W. Bush may drop Skopje from the itinerary of his scheduled tour of Balkan states next month. According to the original plan, Bush was to visit Zagreb, Tirana and Skopje following a NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4.

Carnival Fiesta in Athens March 1, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage.
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Carnival in Athens

Saturday 1 March and Sunday 2 March, 2008

The City of Athens has organized various weekend activities to celebrate the Carnival season, including live music shows in Thiseion from 11.30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and children’s activities at Zappeion Hall 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

For information call 210 3621601 or visit www.cityofathens.gr

The Carnival Season started February 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage.
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29-02-08_carnival.jpg  The Carnival season is in full swing across Greece as people dress up in various costumes. A man on stilts joined clowns and jugglers in Thessaloniki’s Aristotelous Square yesterday, which drew large crowds as part of Carnival activities. Concerts were also held in the northern Greek city on a day known as Tsiknopempti, the traditional heart of the Carnival season when large quantities of meat are consumed.

FYROM tension November 9, 2007

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FM rules out chance of early elections over dispute

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday stressed that increasingly feverish debate over the “Macedonia” name issue would not lead to early elections, as has been suggested by some.

The Minister commented on the insistence of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on calling itself “Macedonia,” the name of a northern Greek region. “It is impossible to develop alliances when intransigency and irredentism reign,” Bakoyannis told Parliament’s cross-party foreign affairs committee. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos, who just visited FYROM, accused the government of abandoning “Macedonia – Greek Macedonia.”

UN seeks FYROM break November 5, 2007

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Athens, Skopje must clarify priorities, ease bilateral tensions, envoy says

Athens and Skopje must clarify their priorities and defuse bilateral tensions before a compromise can be reached on their dispute over the official name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said in an interview published yesterday.

Nimetz, who met with Greek and FYROM envoys in New York last week, praised Greece’s positive stance and appeared to dismiss negative comments made by FYROM’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, on Friday.

Questioned about Gruevski’s refusal to consider an alternative to FYROM’s constitutional name, Nimetz said he would not respond to “reactions” until he had received “the official stances” of both countries to his latest suggestions.

Asked about Greece’s decision to consider a composite name for FYROM, which would clearly differentiate the Balkan state from the region in northern Greece, Nimetz said, “Greece wants to solve the problem, it is making a sincere effort in this direction.”

Nimetz said his chief aim was to determine the priorities of both governments to help him draw up a viable framework for “an honorable and fair solution” to the 16-year spat. “I asked both sides to examine all eventualities so that a solution can be found within a reasonable time frame,” the envoy said.

Nimetz did not give a deadline for a settlement but developments are expected ahead of a NATO summit in April, when the alliance is due to consider FYROM’s prospects for accession. Nimetz said he plans to visit both Athens and Skopje “in the near future” for talks with government officials.

In a related development, FYROM sources in New York said that Skopje is considering broaching the issue of the “Macedonian minority” in Greece.

Bad start to FYROM name talks November 5, 2007

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FYROM on Friday rejected a key element of fresh UN proposals to help settle a 16-year dispute with Greece over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

Reuters reported that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said the draft framework presented on Thursday called on FYROM to accept an alternative to its chosen constitutional name for international use. “That part of the document is unacceptable for Macedonia, and we cannot discuss it,” Gruevski told state news agency MIA.

On Thursday, UN mediator Matthew Nimetz gave Greece and FYROM some “suggestions” to consider as he prepares to visit both countries this month in a bid to resolve the dispute over the latter’s name. Nimetz held a meeting with Greece’s UN Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and FYROM’s representative Nikola Dimitrov in what is seen as perhaps the most crucial round of talks between the two countries since the dispute arose. The mediator did not table any specific proposals but “made some suggestions in the form of a draft framework for their consideration.”