SKOPJE, FYROM – Anticipating approval of a new name deal for the country that will open the door to NATO, the defense alliance’s Commander, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, met with leaders of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Aug. 9.
He congratulated FYROM’s leaders in the capital of Skopje for the country’s “significant progress” in military reforms. He also offered “practical support” to the FYROM army in the NATO accession process.
Greece’s anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement to let FYROM be called North Macedonia, giving away the name of Macedonia, an abutting ancient Greek province.
That was first done in 1991 when a then-New Democracy government approved of the use of Macedonia in what was supposed to be a temporary acronym for FYROM before successive governments began claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.
That led Greece to use a veto to keep FYROM out of NATO and beginning European Union accession talks, both of which are now in progress but dependent on final approval in both countries.
FYROM’s Parliament has twice ratified the deal, which awaits the President’s signature there and a Sept. 30 referendum. If approved, it will go to Greece’s Parliament for a vote but Tsipras, who has barred a referendum with surveys showing 62 percent of Greeks opposed, doesn’t have the support of his own junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
If the deal even gets to the Greek Parliament, Kammenos said he’ll take his party out of the government, forcing Tsipras to find another partner to stay in power and count on some votes among rival parties to get the deal done.