What seemed like a sure thing: Greece allowing the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to keep the word Macedonia in a new name now faces a more difficult road because of dissension in the government of FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
Anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he would allow the name giveaway – first given in 1992 by a New Democracy-led government as what was supposed to be temporary – to end the feud between the countries and pave the way for FYROM’s hopes of entering NATO and the European Union, blocked by a Greek veto.
But after making some concessions, including changing the name of Alexander the Great airport and removing the Greek conqueror’s name from the national highway – FYROM claimed him along with Greek lands, culture and history – Zaev has run into a roadblock with his Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
Zaev’s Socialist party is in a coalition with Dimitrov’s nationalist party, who has long opposed any deal and reportedly said Greece’s position in the talks that were just renewed by United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz after three years, was “absurd,” angering Greece.
That came as Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who has been pushing to let FYROM keep the name of Macedonia, that of an abutting ancient Greek province, was due to visit Skopje and meet with Dimitrov.
With SYRIZA ignoring two massive protests against the name giveaway, media reports said that Kotzias received bullets in the mail and death threats against him and his family, showing the level of division that has been sown.
Internal tensions in FYROM are also upsetting the plans with furor after the government pushed through a law allowing greater use of the Albanian language with Albanians representing a big section of the population.
That infuriated former Prime Minister and nationalist party leader Nikola Gruevski, who was supplanted by Zaev in elections. Gruevski, along with other lawmakers, pulled away the microphone and spilled water on the desk of parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi during the vote.
The French Ambassador said the vote came after little discussion and was upsetting for the EU to witness. “It was a disappointing day because we saw events that we thought we had already turned our backs on,” he said, adding that “what we saw was nothing but a glimpse of what a parliament of European state should not be,” reported Kathimerini.