Support Grows in FYROM for New Name Deal with Greece

FILE - Opponents of the deal between Greece and FYROM on the latter country's new name "North Macedonia" light flares protesting outside the parliament in Skopje, FYROM, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

A majority of voters in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and now behind a deal with Greece to rename their country as North Macedonia, a poll there has shown – but only as a means to get into NATO and the European Union.

The survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI,) found 57 percent of respondents fully or partially agree with their country using that name so it can join NATO and open accession talks with the European Union.

The breakdown was that 83 percent want to get into the EU and 77 percent into NATO, which won’t happen unless voters support the deal in a Sept. 30 referendum and then it’s ratified by the Greek Parliament.

Overall though, 49 percent of those surveyed said they would vote in favor of the agreement, compared to 22 percent who said they would vote against.

Anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader made the deal to give away the name of Macedonia, an ancient abutting Greek province, but is facing opposition from his own junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos who said he will take his party out of the government if the name agreement comes before Parliament for a vote.

Tsipras said he wanted to end a 27-year feud with FYROM that began when a New Democracy government in 1991 agree to let the new country forming from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia in what was supposed to be a temporary acronym.

But after successive FYROM governments kept claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, Greece used a veto to keep its neighbor out of NATO and blocking its EU hopes.

The deal was struck with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution but resumed talks this year after a three-year break amid speculation the US wanted to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.

FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov insisted Aug. 29 in the European Parliament in Brussels his country’s residents are “Macedonian” and speak the “Macedonian” language. He said that the term “Macedonia” has different meanings and that there are “Macedonians” in Greece who are distinct from those in FYROM without explaining how that could be.

Giorgos Koumoutsakos, spokesman for Greece’s major opposition New Democracy, said Dimitrov’s remarks proved that SYRIZA surrendered to FYROM in letting residents there be called Macedonians, which was agreed by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.