ATHENS – After his own Foreign Ministry said the Greek Church was as bad as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party for rejecting use of the word Macedonia for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s prospective new name, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tried to calm the waters with a letter to Archbishop Ieronymos.
With growing reports the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is ready to permanently give away the name Macedonia in any new composite name, it drew fury from the neo-Nazis as well as the Church, with the government linking them.
Already facing the likely mutiny over the issue from his coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, Tsipras tried to assuage assuage the Church and ease the tension at a critical time.
The Holy Synod unanimously said it would oppose any solution that included the use of the term Macedonia by FYROM, citing political, national and ecclesiastical reasons, saying it would give credence to the self-declared Church of Macedonia.
In his letter, Tsipras reassured Ieronymos the Church’s stance would be considered although all reports indicate Macedonia is a done deal for any name with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias saying it would include a geographical qualifier such as North or Upper although some media said the would be New Macedonia, a move that could set off anger among Greek nationalists.
A Greek government in 1992 under then-Premier Constantine Mitsotakis agreed to let its new northern neighbor, which broke away from Yugoslavia to take the name FYROM until a permanent name could be agreed on but all talks have failed.
Macedonia is the name an abutting northern Greek province and successive Greek governments have tried to figure out some way to either take Macedonia out of FYROM or find any solution palatable to Greeks.
In the meantime, Greece has blocked FYROM’s hopes of entering NATO and the European Union even though most of the world and the media already recognize the country as Macedonia, including the United States.
Kammenos, who has waffled repeatedly with reports saying he was willing to relent and accept Macedonia – which would keep him and his party, which is polling around 1 percent in power – another schism developed when ANEL lawmakers disagreed, leading him to say he’s changed his mind again and now still opposes use of Macedonia.
But he said he was open to discussing allowing that word to be used in the Slavic language, and supported Kotzias, whom he earlier had said was the greatest foreign minister in the history of Greece despite criticism that SYRIZA, an anti-nationalist party, was willing to give away Macedonia even though FYROM has no bargaining power.
“I have complete confidence in Kotzias to negotiate a name that will not include the Greek term ‘Macedonia,’” Kammenos told an ANEL party meeting, adding, however, that “[FYROM] can have any name they want in Slavic,” – Makedonija – even though English-language newspapers would most likely call it Macedonia. Kammenos though said he would opposed the use of any qualifiers with the name. Recent reports also said that he would also consider the Slavic name Makedonija. However, he repeated his opposition to the use of the qualifiers of “New” or “Upper” with the term “Macedonia.”
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose father gave away the name Macedonia, said the government should present a united front and “stop dividing Greeks” over the issue.
In comments made during a tour in northern Greece, Mitsotakis accused the government of engaging in “secret diplomacy” and said his party should be briefed on the talks with Kotzias not revealing Greece’s position.
“I also ask the government to stop dividing Greeks. And to stop identifying people who are particularly sensitive on the name issue with the far right,” the New Democracy leader said.