FYROM Premier Zaev Claims Macedonian Language, Identity

Αssociated press

FILE - FYROM's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

His country is on the road to being renamed North Macedonia, but Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Premier Zoran Zaev said it will be Macedonian in heart - and in language as part of a new name deal with Greece.

Anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras gave away the name of Macedonia, an ancient Greek province, in the new composite for FYROM to end a 27-year feud that began when a New Democracy government allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name temporarily.

When successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, Greece used a veto to keep its neighbor out of NATO and beginning European Union accession hopes, a barrier lifted by Tsipras even though Zaev hasn’t moved to change his country’s Constitution as promised to remove irredentist claims on Greece.

FYROM’s Parliament has twice ratified the agreement and it’s set to go before voters in a Sept. 30 referendum that Zaev said he’s confident will pass as it doesn’t mention North Macedonia, only a reference to a name change to get the country into NATO and the EU.

He said that under the deal the “?Macedonian? language will always be ?Macedonian? and the ?Macedonian? nation will always be ?Macedonian,” the kind of talk that Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said could undermine it.

Kammenos is head of SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are opposed to their own government’s deal and he said he would take the party out of the coalition if it passes in FYROM and comes to the Greek Parliament for a vote.

Under the deal, FYROM will be named Republic of North Macedonia, both domestically and internationally although Zaev calls the country Macedonia, as do 140 other countries, and there was no report on what would happen if the name Macedonia is still used instead of North Macedonia. Zaev added that the name deal with Greece paves the way for FYROM's accession to the European Union and NATO, securing a “better future for our children.”

He spoke to a gathering just before revelations in a Wikileaks document showed that there were negotiations in 2008 between then-FYROM Premier Nikola Gruevski and a New Democracy administration that had essentially the same elements as the deal that was pushed on Tsipras, including from United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, and American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution. Nimetz renewed talks earlier this year that led to a resolution after a three-year break amid speculation it was pushed by the US to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.

Zaev said what was discussed in 2008 is another reason why the deal should finally be ratified now. “Part of the name solution and its erga omnes use was accepted, both for North and Upper Macedonia,” Zaev told reporters. “I am pleased that we have received confirmation of our identity, the Macedonian language, which was an important objective of the negotiating team. I believe this evidence will be another reason for us to stand together and secure Macedonia's future,” he added.