Greece’s Name Deal With FYROM Hanging in the Balance

FILE - A street artist prepares his performance as FYROM's flag flies over the main square of Skopje, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece’s oddfellows coalition government is awaiting an Oct. 16 vote in the Parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over whether to ratify a new name deal with signs Greece’s fragile government is becoming even more fragile.

FYROM lawmakers will decide whether to change their country’s name to North Macedonia and open the door to joining NATO and beginning European Union accession talks.

The deal made with Greece’s anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras would let citizens of what would be called North Macedonia if both countries ratify the agreement be called Macedonias, have a Macedonian language and identity and keep the name of an ancient abutting Greek province.

The agreement got the support of 91.5 percent of FYROM voters in a Sept. 30 referendum but the 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.

Tsipras also agreed to lift a Greek veto on North Macedonia getting into NATO and opening European Union accession talks to end a 27-year dispute that began when a New Democracy government allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia before successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek territories.

The agreement also requires FYROM lawmakers to approve changes – by a two-thirds votes – to the country’s Constitution removing irredentist claims on Greek lands, including the real Macedonia, an abutting ancient Greek province, and the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.

Reports over the weekend suggested that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev would be able to draw the 80 votes he needs to push the deal and the constitutional changes it requires, said Kathimerini, after he said it’s his country’s last chance for NATO and EU hopes.

If the deal is snookered, he said he will call snap elections, likely to be as soon as Nov. 25, which could scuttle any chance of reopening prospects for another deal.

The agreement is opposed by his junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who said both that of it comes to a vote in the Parliament that he would yank his party from the coalition, which could bring down the government, but that he wouldn’t stand in the way, allowing him to have it both ways.