Greece declined on Thursday to endorse immediately a European Union recommendation that member governments next month declare Macedonia a candidate for membership. More time was needed to study the details, it said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said that Greece would not allow Macedonia to join the EU with its current name. Greece calls the country the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," or FYROM, the name under which it joined the United Nations following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
Greece argues the name Macedonia implies territorial claims toward the northern Greek province of Macedonia and could threaten regional stability.
EU leaders are to endorse the candidacy of Macedonia at a mid-December summit in Brussels, the AP reports.
But he described the European Commission's recommendation, announced in Brussels on Wednesday, as "very satisfactory," saying it adopted many of Greece's positions on the issue, including its insistence that efforts to find a solution to the name issue must continue before Macedonia can join.
Macedonia nearly degenerated into a civil war in 2001 when ethnic Albanians, thought to make up at least a quarter of its 2.2 million people, took up arms to demand more rights.
Macedonia applied to join the EU in March 2004, and Greece has supported its bid to join under certain conditions.
Greece, now the largest foreign investor in Macedonia, imposed a damaging yearlong trade embargo in 1994 on the landlocked republic because of the name dispute. The embargo nearly destroyed the small country's economy.
Both Valinakis and Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said the recommendation was positive In Skopje, the Macedonia capital, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn arrived to formally hand over a report recommending that Macedonia be declared a candidate. A.M.