ATHENS – Some 68 percent of Greeks don’t want the the anti-nationalist ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia keep the word Macedonia – the name of an abutting Greek province – in a new composite name.
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.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has indicated that Greece will let Macedonia be part of any new name for FYROM along with a geographical qualifier such as Northern or Upper but some reports said Greece was willing to agree to New Macedonia.
The survey, conducted by the polling firm Marc on behalf of the Proto Thema newspaper, found only 23.6 percent of Greeks agree with that, which could be bad news for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ push to end a 26-year feud between the countries and claim he was the one who found a solution to a problem evading a long line of politicians and diplomats.
Only 25.2 percent of votes in his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA want to give away the name with 53.8 percent again him. It wasn’t reported whether he believed that as he has dismissed previous polls against him as inaccurate.
But the poll also presented a dilemma for the major opposition New Democracy Conservatives led by its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, because it was his father who agreed to allowing Macedonia’s name to be used.
Mitsotakis said he wouldn’t stand behind any deal so far because SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – after some waffling – now opposes the use of Macedonia.
Kammenos, formerly with New Democracy, said he would accept Makedonija, which would translate to Macedonia but allow him to claim he was against it anyway, and Mitsotakis said Greece should present a unified front, not a split government leadership.
The Conservative leader could find himself in a position of trying to shoot down a deal with FYROM if he opposes the use of Macedonia but, if he agrees, would find himself opposed to what his father did. Only 21.4 percent in New Democracy say Macedonia is okay for the new FYROM name.
All this comes as United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, who has been trying to find an answer for two decades, has resumed talks between the countries after a three-year break and will meet with envoys in New York this month.
United Nations-mediated talks between diplomats from Greece and FYROM are to begin in New York in a bid to resolve the long-standing name dispute over the coming months ahead of a NATO summit in July.
Greece has vetoed any hopes of FYROM getting into NATO or the European Union unless the name dispute is settled. There was no explanation from the government why, as it holds all the bargaining chips, it was willing to make the name concession.
Also against giving the name away are the ultra-extremist Golden Dawn, accused of using neo-Nazi techniques, and the Church of Greece, which led the Foreign Ministry to pair them, and then with Tsipras writing a letter of appeasement to the Church.