Winning the name of the ancient Greek province Macedonia in a new composite, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) said it’s now eager to get into the European Union as well as NATO after Greece lifted vetoes barring those hopes.
FYROM Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani said he’s aware his country will first need to focus on reforms, such as fighting corruption, as part of the process to get into the EU, with talks scheduled to begin in 2019.
That’s dependent on both countries ratifying the deal to let FYROM be called North Macedonia, although its citizens will be known a Macedonian and have a Macedonian language and identity, infuriating Greek opponents.
Speaking in an interview with To Ethnos newspaper, he said that Greeks and citizens of FYROM – who call themselves Macedonians, as do Greeks in the real Macedonia abutting that country – “want to build a better future and are tired by the cockfights of the past.” The message from the people, he said, is “don’t waste time.”
Despite his optimism, some 62 percent of Greeks oppose the deal and there have been vociferous demonstrations in FYROM as well although the Parliament there has twice ratified the deal, the second time to override a veto from President Gjorge Ivanov.
FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev said he will hold a referendum in the autumn and, if approved there, the deal will go before the Greek Parliament, likely early next year, an election year in which anti-nationalist Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is facing opposition over the deal from his junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
Osmani said that the deal signed last month between the two countries renaming FYROM to North Macedonia, among other changes, is “a fair compromise on both sides” but has aspects that “will be determined in practice and by our good will to move ahead.”