Macedonia took its two-decade-old dispute with Greece over its name to the United Nations’ highest court on Monday.
The two countries have been at loggerheads since Skopje declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1992. Greece has demanded that Macedonia change its name, which is also the name of a Greek region, and has blocked Macedonia’s bid to become a member of NATO.
Macedonia filed suit with the International Court of Justice in The Hague in November 2008, asking it to order Greece to stop blocking Macedonia’s bid to join the Western military alliance.
The hearings at the Netherlands-based court are scheduled to last about a week.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski told reporters in The Hague on Monday that Skopje is asking the court to assess Greece’s actions at the time NATO was deciding whether or not to invite Macedonia to become a member.
Macedonia says that Greece violated a 1995 bilateral accord, under which Skopje agreed to use the provisional name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in international organizations and Athens agreed not to block Macedonia membership in the European Union and NATO.
The lawyer representing Macedonia at the International Court of Justice, Philippe Sands, said the case is of great importance for the country’s internal stability and regional well-being.
Greece objects to Macedonia’s use of the name, saying it implies a claim to the northern Greek province that has the same same. Macedonian leaders have repeatedly said their country has no designs on Greek territory.
The United Nations recognized Macedonia’s independence in 1993 under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . But more than 100 countries have recognized the country under its constitutional name Republic of Macedonia. voa