ATHENS – Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras used a deal to change the name of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to split Greeks and unfairly called protesters opposed to the agreement as “far right populists.”
Tsipras reportedly used that language in a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron and it has irked Mitsotakis, who also opposed the agreement just ratified by the Greek Parliament to call FYROM as North Macedonia, giving away the name of an ancient abutting Greek province.
“Tsipras … once again insulted the Greek people. He described, not only as far right supporters, but also as mindless (people) those who are opposing the Prespes agreement. And he behaved in such insolent and irresponsible manner in front of foreign leaders,” Mitsotakis said, according to Kathimerini, referring to Lake Prespes which borders both countries and where it was signed.
“However, he had nothing to say about (FYROM Prime Minister Zoran) Zaev who keeps calling Skopje ‘Macedonia’,” Mitsotakis said, referring to the name of the FYROM capital and Zaev still referring to FYROM as Macedonia until the last details are worked out.
After accusing Tsipras of dividing the Greek people, Mitsotakis added: “Greeks will stay united, proud and dignified. And they will soon give [Tsipras] the answer he deserves,” noting indirectly that this is an election year and polls show New Democracy, which was unseated by SYRIZA and Tsipras in 2015, is on a path for an easy win after the Premier repeatedly reneged on anti-austerity promises for four years.
SYRIZA later struck back, going hard after Mitsotakis and his remarks. “Mitsotakis completely ignorant of the impression made on the international public opinion and European leaders by himself, his party and the violent acts committed by the attack squads outside Greek Parliament,” government sources said.
“If [television] cameras were to register the off-record comments by European leaders… perhaps [Mitsotakis] would realize the damage he has inflicted on his party as well as the country,” sources that weren’t identified told Kathimerini.
SYRIZA was referring to violent protests outside Parliament against the FYROM name deal that saw riot police fire stun grenades and tear gas as demonstrators stormed stairs and tried to breach the blockade.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades congratulated Tsipras on the deal that will also opene the door for what would be North Macedonia to get into NATO and open European Union accession talks.
In televised statements ahead of their meeting in Nicosia, Anastasiades said Tsipras had shown the required courage to bring an “unnecessary” dispute to an end, while opening the doors to cooperation, peace and stability in the region.
Anastasiades stressed that the name-change deal does away with the irredentist elements included in FYROM’s constitution that saw the country keep claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.