ATHENS – Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) serving Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a coalition, won’t agree to a deal giving away the name Macedonia to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to be called North Macedonia.
Kammenos’ pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic party has nine votes, enough to give the government a three-vote majority in Parliament said he’s opposed to the deal struck by Tsipras – but that he won’t stand in the way of it.
Continuing his contradictions, he said any of his party members who vote for it – he didn’t say what he would do – would be ejected, which could bring down the coalition as he’s trying to find some way to oppose the deal but support it to stay in power.
Talking to reporters – which Tsipras doesn’t do – Kammenos said while he won’t agree to the name giveaway that he and the Premier have “close cooperation on the issue,” refusing to say whether he will oppose it philosophically but vote for it while prohibiting his party members from backing it.
He warned his ANEL Members of Parliament that “anyone who follows a different line will be automatically ousted from the party,” which means he’d have to eject himself if he votes for a deal he opposes but essentially also supports simultaneously.
He said it could a year before it goes to a vote in Parliament with elections required by October, 2019 and surveys showing 68 percent of Greeks opposed and with the anti-nationalist Tsipras ignoring massive protests across the country.
If it takes that long, North Macedonia could already have been admitted into NATO and the European Union with Tsipras agreeing to lift vetoes and too late for Greece to make its new neighbor comply with other conditions, such as changing its Constitution to remove irredentist claims in Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.
FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev said he would put the deal to a vote in a referendum in the autumn but Tsipras, who in 2015 reneged on a referendum he called asking Greeks to oppose austerity measures demanded by the country’s international creditors – the voters did but he didn’t – won’t allow Greeks to have a say in the deal.
Kammenos said the deal “will never be approved” in a referendum in FYROM but by that time the country could already be in NATO and moving toward EU membership.
Kammenos also took a shot at the major opposition New Democracy – which he left in protest of austerity measures he then voted for after forming a new party and joining his ideological rival SYRIZA.
He said New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose father Constantinos Mitsotakis was Premier in 1992 and agreed to let the new country forming from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia in the FYROM acronym in what was supposed to be a temporary deal, should say if he will vote for it or oppose what his late father did.