With the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Parliament expected to ratify a deal to be renamed as North Macedonia, a vote could go to Greek lawmakers sooner than March when it was expected, and as Greece’s coalition is coming apart over the prospect.
The vote in FYROM is expected no later than Jan. 15 with Greece’s anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras seen eager to capitalize on momentum despite opposition from two-thirds of Greeks and his own junior coalition partner, the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
ANEL has only seven votes, enough – along with one alleged Independent who has aligned with SYRIZA to give the government a scant three-vote majority in Parliament. But Tsipras is confident he has enough votes to get the deal approved without ANEL.
Kammenos has alternately said he would instruct his lawmakers vote against it, as reports said as many as four of them will buck him, and that he would take the party out of the government but that he wouldn’t stand in the way of the so-called Prespa deal, named for Lake Prespes which borders both countries and where it was signed..
Deputy Interior Minister Marina Chrysoveloni, from ANEL, said she’s leaning toward voting for the agreement. “If the Prespa agreement is truly to the benefit of the country, then I don’t believe there is any reason to leave my position and create problems for the government,” she said.
With ANEL polling at only around 1 percent after Kammenos reversed his positions so he could become Defense Minister, it’s unlikely the party could reach the 3 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament, leaving its six deputies the prospect of not returning or jumping ship to SYRIZA to survive.
The Greek government denied it’s being pressured to get the deal done, which gives away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia and would allow citizens of what would be North Macedonia to be called Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens on Jan 10-11 was seen as an indicator that Tsipras is being squeezed to speed the timetable as the deal also opens the door for a North Macedonia to get into NATO and open European Union accession talks.