Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Thursday lamented the fact that Belgrade had previously recognized the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) under its constitutional name, i.e. “Macedonia”, something that Athens has actively opposed for nearly 30 years because its largest province is called Macedonia.
The statement was not the first time that Serbian leadership referred to “regrets” over the decision.
Vučić made the statement in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, where he met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov. The trio of Balkan leaders were later joined in the city by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“Greece did not recognize the independence of Kosovo, it was with us; we haven’t shown it enough respect over this,” he said during a press conference.
Vucic continued by saying that a solution to the pesky “name issue” still plaguing relations between Athens and Skopje can only exist if the Greek side is satisfied with the compromise.
Successive Greek governments since the early 1990s have opposed the stand-alone “Macedonia” for the one-time Yugoslav constituent republic, reminding that the northern Greece province of Macedonia mostly approximates historical and geographic Macedonia. Athens’ opposition is rooted in concerns that the stand-alone name “Macedonia” implies irredentist designs on the Greek province, as fYRoM's neighbor to the south is the Greek province of Macedonia.
A 2008 decision by Greece’s political leaders at the time, however, called for a compromise based a mutually acceptable name with a geographic qualifier before the name “Macedonia”.
Vucic also thanked the Greek side for its support towards Serbia’s European course and for what he called its clear position on the issue of Kosovo.