They are likely to be at odds later but North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev tweeted congratulations to Greece’s new Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, an opponent of a deal the previous Radical Left SYRIZA government made to rename Greece’s neighbor, giving away the name of the province of Macedonia.
“Congratulations for the election victory to the new PM of Greece,” Zaev said in a tweet. “I wish prosperity to Greece and to the Greek people. We hope to continue the cooperation between North Macedonia and Greece,” he said.
In June, a month before the July 7 snap elections that saw the ouster of then-Premier Alexis Tsipras, Zaev said he could work with Mitsotakis if the New Democracy leader prevailed despite differences over deal that saw The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) now called Macedonia.
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 European Union accession talks. A report in the pro-government newspaper Sloboden Pechat said at the time that if Mitsotakis came to power it wouldn’t upset the nucleus of the deal.
Ironically, it was Mitsotakis’ father, the late Constantinos Mitsotakis, who was Prime Minister in 1991 and agreed to let the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to take the name of Macedonia in an acronym.
That was supposed to be a temporary arrangement but after successive FYROM governments began claiming Greeks lands and territories – including the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki – Greece used a veto to keep its neighbor out of NATO and opening EU talks, now both lifted under the deal.