After Greek Concession, EU Will Start FYROM, Albania Accession Talks

February 24, 2018

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ decision to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) keep Macedonia in a new composite name is opening the door not only to its NATO hopes but also getting into the European Union.

A Greek veto has kept its Balkan neighbor out of both during a 26-year name dispute over a permanent name for FYROM, which was first allowed by a New Democracy Administration to use the name of Macedonia, that of an abutting ancient Greek province.

After getting that concession as it formed a new nation out of the collapsing Yugoslavia, FYROM leaders immediately began claiming Greek territories, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and port of Thessaloniki, along with Greek culture and heritage, including Alexander the Great.

After Tsipras and his anti-nationalist Radical Left SYRIZA said they would let FYROM keep Macedonia in a permanent name still being worked out, with a qualifier such as Upper, Northern or New, FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev removed Alexander’s name from his country’s international airport and major highway and began removing some statues that had irritated Greece.

But Zaev said he wouldn’t change the country’s Constitution which still has irredentist claims on Greek lands nor whether he would go ahead with his promise of a referendum to let his citizens decide whether to ratify any name deal.

Tsipras was due to discuss the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Feb. 23 on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Brussels after he said he was amenable to paving the way for FYROM to join the bloc, and also to get into NATO.

United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who has failed in two decades of diplomacy to find a solution to the name feud, has resumed talks after a three-year break amid speculation the US wants to bring FYROM into the defense alliance as a bulwark against Russian interests.

is expected to discuss the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) during his meeting today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the informal summit of 27 European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday.

Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the EU wants to bring FYROM, under its name when it’s decided, and Albania, which still has sore spots with Greece, into the bloc to solidify the Western Balkans.

“The EU Commission will soon recommend, most likely by the summer, that member-states begin accession negotiations with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” Hahn said in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

He added that the EU believes “both countries have made important reforms in the past, and are thus qualified for this step,” but didn’t provide any details.

Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos sent a letter to Hahn and Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu also backing FYROM’s candidacy to join the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) – one of two goodwill initiatives agreed by Tsipras and in Davos in January at the World Economic Forum.

The Greek Parliament is also expected to ratify the second phase of FYROM’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU signaling that Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias have completely ignored surveys showing 68 percent of Greeks opposed to the name giveaway and two massive demonstrations in Thessaloniki and Athens that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters.

Zaev and FYROM’s President Gjorge Ivanov and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov have been touring EU capitals in a charm offensive to show it doesn’t have irredentist claims with Greece even though they won’t change the Constitution which shows they do.

“Our actions show our goodwill and show that we have no irredentist aspirations,” Zaev said in Berlin.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, a Greek, praised the FYROM package and said President Jean-Claude Juncker will begin a tour of the Western Balkans in its capital of Skopje on Feb. 25.
All that comes despite opposition to the name giveaway by Tsipras’ coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos who said, however, that he wouldn’t take his party out of the government and bring it down as it would take him out of power as well.


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