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North Macedonia Says Name Deal With Greece Wobbly After EU Talks Block

Αssociated Press

North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev said vetoes by at least three countries so far to open European Union accession talks with his country could jeopardize the agreement with Greece that changed its name.

Zaev and former Greek premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in 2018 struck the deal to change the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), giving away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia over furious objections from most Greeks and nationalists in the now-North Macedonia.

Greece also lifted a veto keeping North Macedonia out of NATO, a process now proceeding, and also a bar on beginning EU admission talks, but France objected, as did The Netherlands and Denmark, citing corruption and other issues they considered too contentious for now.

Speaking to the Greek edition of Euronews in Skopje, the North Macedonian capital, he said that   certain fundamental articles of the agreement settling a two-decade-old name dispute between the two neighbors, are linked to the progress of his country’s accession to the EU.

“Certain chapters will be frozen because they cannot be implemented. We will try to implement them, but the two are connected to each other,” Zaev said in comments translated into Greek by Euronews, stressing that some chapters mainly concern domestic use of the country’s new name.

The vetoes led him to call early elections for April, 2020, leaving the deal in limbo, especially if a new government is elected but without explaining how it could be undone since it was signed by his country and Greece and was binding.

“We have no alternative. There are no other offers that could serve as an alternative. What other offers there may be do not give us democracy, rule of law and liberties. If the light of the stars of the European Union flag is extinguished, we will have darkness here. And we may get lost in this darkness,” Zaev was quoted as saying.

“If radicalization and the resurgence of nationalism are given fertile ground, this will do a lot of harm to the entire Balkans. And when the Balkans have a problem, Europe has a problem,” the premier added in the interview.