ATHENS – Suggesting it could be an alternative to a new name deal for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he wants a defense pact linking Greece with Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria and eventually Serbia.
Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, opposes the deal to let FYROM be called North Macedonia – keeping the name of an ancient abutting Greek province – and which would open the door to NATO and European Union accession talks.
The agreement got the support of 91.5 percent of FYROM voters in a Sept. 30 referendum but te paltry turnout of 36.5 percent, which came after opponents called for a boycott, led the country’s election commission to say it was invalid.
FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev, however, said he took it as a mandate and now must convince Parliament, needing a two-thirds majority where he was reportedly seven votes short, to ratify the deal and change the Constitution to remove irredentist claims on Greek lands, including tahe real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.
During a meeting with Wess Mitchell, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, at the US State Department, Kammenos proposed the mini-Balkan defense pact, said Kathimerini, with no word on how it was received.
Kammenos said the arrangement would stave off Russia interests in the Balkans, which the US wants. The name deal was struck with the help of UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution but this year resumed talks after a three-year break amid speculation the US wanted to get what would be North Macedonia into NATO.
Kammenos couldn’t even get the support of the government he serves with Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos saying the idea was a no-go.