GERMANY, Italy, Denmark, and Britain established diplomatic relations yesterday with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, a move that was certain to infuriate Greece.
Greece said it had been informed by France and the Netherlands that they intend to do the same. Sweden said it would follow suit by Jan. 1.
Greece worries that Macedonian factions may lay claim to a Greek province by the same name. Greece has strenuously opposed recognition of the Skopje government by its EU partners until it drops any reference to Macedonia. But the other 11 EU nations have grown impatient with Athens, which broke off United Nations-mediated talks to choose a new name for its neighbor. Macedonia was admitted to the UN this year under the compromise name ``The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.''
In London, Britain's Foreign Office said it hoped the move would keep Macedonia away from the war that engulfed Croatia and moved onto Bosnia after those regions declared independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.
At a news conference yesterday, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl defended his decision. ``We [in the EU] have intensively discussed this for a long time. We are of the opinion that this is the right time.'' Greece, which assumes the rotating EU presidency on Jan. 1, has hinted previously that it may block key routes into its landlocked neighbor.