With Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in North Macedonia April 2 after making a deal to change that country’s name, major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was an act of betrayal to Greeks.
“They feel humiliated by a government that signed the Prespes agreement that we voted against,” the ND leader during a speech in Veria, referring to the deal that was signed at Lake Prespes, which borders both countries.
That ended a nearly 28-year-long name feud that began when Mitsotakis’ father, the late former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis, allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia for The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), renamed under the deal.
Mitsotakis declared solidarity with the people of northern Greece, in the province of the real Macedonia that abuts North Macedonia, who he said feel “betrayed” by the deal the anti-nationalist Tsipras made, which won a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for him and North Macedonia Premier Zoran Zaev.
Mitsotakis said the agreement, which allowed citizens of North Macedonia to call themselves Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity, was creating problems for companies in the real Macedonia who brand their products as Macedonian – as do some in North Macedonia.
He said a New Democracy government could have signed a similar agreement back in 2008, “But we said ‘no’ back then and resisted strong pressure,” Kathimerini reported. He had said previously that while the deal removed Greek vetoes to let North Macedonia into NATO and opening European Union accession talks that if he comes to power this year with elections looming he might bar the EU door.
Mitsotakis said he would also bring a “comprehensive plan to protect Greek Macedonian products from any risk from the products of our northern neighbor.”
With his party holding big leads in surveys, he said that Greeks “will not give Mr. Tsipras a third chance,” accusing the Premier of seeking to divide citizens and referring to SYRIZA in 2015 twice beating New Democracy.
He again promised a reduction in taxes and contributions and more jobs without saying how that could happen with the country under continued scrutiny of international lenders who put up 326 billion euros ($365.08 billion) in three bailouts that came with austerity measures and economic targets that must continue to be met.
“We want to grow the economy and we want to distribute social dividend in a fair way,” he said, referring to Tsipras going on a rampage of handouts in a bid to return to power.