Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said his country's Parliament is poised to approve a deal with Greece to rename itself as North Macedonia and open the door for entry into NATO and beginning European Parliament accession talks.
With lawmakers having okayed changes to the Constitution to remove irredentist claims on Greek lands, including the real Macedonia, an ancient abutting Greek province, as well as the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, he said the Parliament will start a ratification debate as soon as Dec. 1.
“I think that we are very close to resolving a matter that has been pending for 27 years and to building a bridge of rapprochement between two nations,” Dimitrov told the Balkan news agency IBNA following a meeting in Thessaloniki.
Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said that he was certain FYROM’s constitutional review “will reflect everything agreed in the Prespes deal,” referring to the lake bordering both countries where it was signed.
The deal was pushed by Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA with anti-nationalist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saying it had to be done to end a 27-year name feud and because 140 countries already refer to FYROM as Macedonia without a geographical qualifier.
It also allows, however, residents of what would be North Macedonia if Greek lawmakers approve ratification, to be called Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity. That was too much for Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos to swallow and he said his seven Members of Parliament will vote against it and he’ll yank the party from the coalition if the agreement reaches the Greek Parliament, now set for March, 2019.
While FYROM has nearly completed what it needed to be done, the agreement faces a rough road in Greece although Tsipras is confident he has enough votes from rivals.
But he also said he wouldn’t bring down the government nor stand in the way of the deal, continuing his contradictory statements that have changed frequently, as he both opposes and supports the deal, allowing him to have it both ways.