ATHENS – Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has to fully relinquish claims to Greek territories as part of a new name deal he opposed reached by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.
Kammenos is the head of the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner and said they would vote against the agreement when it comes before the Greek Parliament but reneged on vows to leave the government if that happens.
With FYROM yet to fully remove its claims on Greek lands, including the real, ancient abutting Greek province of Macedonia as well as the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, he said that has to be done.
During a visit to a military outpost near the Greek-FYROM border he said that Greece wanted to maintain peaceful ties with its Balkan neighbor but that includes keeping to the letter of the agreement reached with the anti-nationalist SYRIZA.
“Our neighbors need to understand that it is in their interest to be on good terms with Greece. At the same time, they need to understand that as long as they provoke (Greece,), as long as they pursue irredentist claims, Greece’s door will remain closed,” he said, Kathimerini reported.
He added that, “Greece’s door is also the door to Europe and the door to the West,” alluding to Tsipras agreeing to lift Greek vetoes keeping FYROM – as North Macedonia as the new name would be – out of NATO and opening European Union accession talks.
What he will do is up in the air as he keeps wavering and changing what he says with the business newspaper Naftemporiki reporting that now he said he will take ANEL out of the government if the deal comes to a vote after saying he wouldn’t but would still oppose the deal and with reports at least of his seven lawmakers will stand against him and with Tsipras and SYRIZA.
“They need to realize that there is only one Macedonia and it is Greek. This will be their passport to future prosperity,” he said, although FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev, after backing away from saying that part of a new name deal with Greece would allow the use of the “Macedonian” language abroad – in Greece – said that language should nevertheless be recognized.
“It is important that both sides be careful about our phraseology. It’s a fact that the (name) agreement contains a reference to a ‘Macedonian language,’ it’s a fact that this belongs to the Southern Slavic languages and this is… part of the agreement, as is the fact that we shall be named Republic of North Macedonia,” he said.
The agreement also allows citizens of what would be North Macedonia to call themselves Macedonians and have a Macedonian language and culture and identity.