ATHENS – Almost as soon as talks reopened aimed at ending a name feud, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska opened old wounds and taunted Greece over its fears her country covets its territory.
Sekerinska, who is also Defense Minister, told the British newspaper The Guardian that the coming acceleration of talks aimed at getting the two countries to agree on a mutually-acceptable name for her country are crucial.
But she said – even though her country has produced maps showing it owns the northern Greek province of Macedonia as well as the port of Thessaloniki that is has no territorial ambitions, saying Greek fears were “laughable,” without mentioning FYROM’s real claims.
“No one in Macedonia has territorial pretensions, literally no one. It is laughable,” she told the Guardian. “The only time when we might occupy Greece is when we pour to the Greek beaches as tourists.”
She said FYROM, blocked from entering NATO and seeing its European Union aspirations blocked by a Greek veto, wants an end to the battle that’s been going on for 26 years, ever since a previous Greek government allowed the use of the word Macedonia in her country’s awkward acronym.
As a member of NATO and the EU, Greece can stand in FYROM’s way. New FRYOM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, replacing hardliners, said he’s more open to finding a solution his government also has been provocative, putting teams in international sports tourneys bearing the name Macedonia on its uniforms.
After a three-year hiatus, the negotiations being brokered by United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who for years has been unable to make any progress or get either side to get off the dime, have resumed.
Sekerinska told the paper, “The next year is crucial. We need to show that there are developments – people do not expect everything to be solved tomorrow – but they expect progress because we have been stuck for 10 years,” without providing any reasons why there should be optimism.
“What happens will create either inspiration or frustration right across the Balkans,” she said.