North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev – nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize over the change he made to change his country’s name with Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras, said he would have no problem working with New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis if he’s elected in July 7 snap polls.
Sounding like someone ready to jettison ties with Tsipras, the Radical Left SYRIZA leader who brought the deal to give away the name of the Greek province of Macedonia to let the then-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) become North Macedonia, Zaev said he didn’t think Mitsotakis’ objections to the agreement would come between them.
Mitsotakis is leading by 9 points ahead of the polls that Tsipras called after SYRIZA candidates took a beating in May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, hoping to ward off a bigger rout.
Mitsotakis, who had acknowledged he couldn’t roll back the name of North Macedonia, is nonetheless strongly opposed to a number of technical aspects, such as those in which businesses in North Macedonia are allowed to call their products Macedonia, confused with those from the real Macedonia in Greece, which abuts the newly-named country.
“We can expect some bilateral disagreements and obstacles but I do not think that our southern neighbor [Greece] would behave in a radical way as to harm the process,” the country’s former ambassador to NATO, Nano Ruzin, said.
Part of the deal lifted Greek vetoes on what is now North Macedonia getting into the defense alliance and opening Europen Union accession talks. A report in the pro-government newspaper Sloboden Pechat said if Mitsotakis comes to power it wouldn’t upset the nucleus of the deal.
But, it added, it could affect negotiations regarding history and trademark issues on which North Macedonia could be forced “to make concessions,” without specifying what they would be. Zaev, frustrated over parts of the deal, is said to also be calling snap elections.
That raises the specter of – if he lost – whether the architects of a deal that brought them a peace prize nomination would then both be ousted in the same year as the agreement was vehemently opposed in both countries, particularly in Greece where two-thirds of those in surveys rejected it, a big reason for Tsipras’ fall in surveys.
Speaking to Kathimerini, New Democracy’s shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said if the Conservatives come to power they would, indeed, do all that they could “to dampen the negative consequences of the deal” which he described as “damaging,” cautioning that Greece could still keep North Macedonia out of the EU.
Ironically, it was Mitsotakis’ father, the late former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis who in 1991 allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to take the name of Macedonia temporarily and call itself FYROM, putting his son in the position of objecting to what his father did, the legacy rolling into today.