ATHENS – Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said officials in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have already broken terms of a deal he opposes that would rename that country North Macedonia, an agreement made by anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.
Kammenos is head of the government’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are opposed to the agreement which has been approved by FYROM’s Parliament and awaits a Sept. 30 referendum there.
The deal forever gives away the of the ancient Greek province Macedonia, and would also let residents of FYROM identify themselves as Macedonian, not North Macedonia, and have a Macedonian language and culture.
Kammenos said if the agreement passes the referendum in FYROM – Tsipras has barred one for Greeks with polls showing 62-68 percent are opposed – that he would yank his party out of the government, forcing the Premier to get votes from rival parties and find another partner to keep the administration from collapsing.
Kammenos was upset that officials in FYROM, where Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has yet to act on a promise to remove irredentist language in his country’s Constitution, which claims Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, are still calling themselves Macedonian.
“With their provocative comments against Greece, Skopje officials including the Prime Minister himself and the foreign minister, are torpedoing any effort to find a solution,” said Kammenos, using FYROM’s Capital as a reference. “The Greek people will have the final say,” he said, although they won’t because there won’t be a referendum and if Tsipras gets votes from other parties, the deal will pass over Kammenos’ objections.
He was upset that FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov in the European Parliament in Brussels referred to citizens as “Macedonian” and that they speak the “Macedonian” language.
“The reference to a ‘Macedonian’ nation is in violation of any agreement,” Kammenos said, but he was ignored by Tsipras, who often lets the Defense Minister go off on rants, knowing that in most cases Kammenos will vote the way he’s told anyway, except in this case.
Zaev urged citizens of his country to go out and vote for a “European Macedonia” in the referendum. Greece has agreed to lift its objections to FYROM’s accession talks for the European Union and NATO once the country ratifies the deal.
A recent poll conducted in FYROM showed that more than half of respondents want to get their country into NATO under the name North Macedonia. Zaev called the referendum a “historic opportunity for Macedonia,” not North Macedonia.
The deal was brokered with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution and this year resumed talks after a three-year break amid speculation it was done because the US wanted to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.