ATHENS – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greece’s major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis disagreed over the new name deal made with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) but reportedly agreed on reforms needed for an economic recovery in discussions before she left Greece.
She had first met with Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras who said he’s bringing a recovery without mentioning, if so, it’s largely because he reneged on anti-austerity measures she insisted upon with her country putting up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($373.91 billion) in three international bailouts.
Mitsotakis had backed austerity while serving as Administrative Reform Minister in a previous government but now doesn’t as he seeks to get into power in an election year with polls showing he’s far ahead.
Commenting after the hour-long meeting, Mitsotakis said the discussion had been “frank” and wide-ranging, diplomatic language frequently used not to say anything of substance or reveal what was discussed.
He said he outlined the conservative party’s plan to “drastically reduce taxes and attract new investments along with (implementing) a broad range of reforms so the country can emerge from the crisis,” said Kathimerini.
Mitsotakis told Merkel why New Democracy won’t support the deal the anti-nationalist Tsipras made to call FYROM as North Macedonia, giving away the name of an ancient Greek province, and lift a veto on that country from getting into NATO and opening European Union accession talks.
“It is not just because that is the will of the majority of the Greek people but because it is a bad deal that, instead of solving problems in the broader region of the Balkans, could trigger new ones,” he said, adding that ND’s position is “non-negotiable.”
Ironically, it was his late father, then Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis, who in 1991 allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia in what was supposed be a temporary acronym.
But after successive FYROM governments kept claiming Greek territories, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, Greece put up the barrier to NATO and the EU.
FYROM’s Parliament on Jan. 11 gave the final okay to the deal by changing its Constitution to remove the irredentist claims but the agreement is opposed by two-thirds of Greeks in surveys and by Tsipras’ former coalition partner, previous Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) who quit over it.
Merkel noted she and Mitsotakis have similar political backgrounds and economic leanings although he indicated he would resist, if elected, some of reforms she demanded Greece must push as part of the bailout deals.