After “Macedonian” Flap, FYROM Behind Rename Deal

FILE - FYROM's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev greets the supporters during a pre-referendum rally named "For European Macedonia", in Skopje, FYROM, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Premier Zoran Zaev was trying to preserve a deal with Greece to rename his country after it was reported he said there was a Slavic “Macedonian” minority in Greece, home of the real Macedonia.

A brouhaha developed after the report which led Greek Prokopis Pavlopoulos to fiercely respond that FYROM must abide by the deal it reached with the anti-nationalist Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has stayed mum during the provocation.

In a statement, FYROM’s government said, without clarifying Zaev’s remarks, that it is “strongly committed” to the agreement reached at Lake Prespes, which borders both countries. FYROM has approved it but not the Greek Parliament, due to take it up in March.

If it comes to a vote in Greece though, Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos plan to leave the administration and vote against the agreement.

Saying it would not interfere in Greece’s internal affairs, FYROM added that, “We are strongly committed to full implementation of Prespa agreement, and all of our actions and statements are made in good faith to support the agreement.”

The statement added that, “As a country that aspires to join the EU, we understand that countries take care of their own citizens and countries in the Balkans do not interfere in neighboring countries on any given issue,” it said.

Referring to article 4(3) of name agreement signed between the two countries this summer, the FYROM government pledged to avoid any interference in Greece’s internal affairs, “including for the protection of rights of any persons that are not our citizens.”

“In that sense, it is understood that language policies in both countries are not determined by the Prespa agreement,” it said.

“We understand and respect that the question of what languages are taught in Greece is an issue of internal affairs and domestic policy.” It was reported by FYROM media that Zaev had said
“Macedonians” in Greece will have the right to be taught the “Macedonian” language.

A senior US official says the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could join NATO by early 2020 if it implements an agreement with Greece to rename itself “North Macedonia,” resolving the two countries’ decades-old name dispute.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer answers journalist questions during an interview, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer said on Tuesday in Sarajevo that FYROM could become the 30th member of NATO “as early as in 18 months from now.”
“That is an entirely realistic target date,” he said.

However, Palmer voiced concern over Russian “malign influence” in the Western Balkans, including efforts to undermine FYROM’s decision to pursue NATO membership.

“The Kremlin sees its interests in the region as being advanced through friction, distrust, disorder,” Palmer said, adding that Russia was primarily focused on advancing its “visions and goals which are increasingly at odds with our own.”

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)