A nearly-done deal with Greece to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) keep the name Macedonia in a new composite and open the door to NATO and the European Union has begun to recede over claims on Greek lands and refusal to use a new composite domestically.
Anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is keen to let FYROM keep the name Macedonia – an abutting ancient Greek province – to settle a 26-year-long dispute that began when a New Democracy administration allowed its use in what was supposed to be temporary.
But that set off the problem threatening to scuttle a deal now: FYROM says it owns Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city, the port of Thessaloniki, won’t change its Constitution to remove them nor agree to use a prospective new name at home, where it wants to keep calling itself Macedonia, already recognized by 140 countries.
The stalemate continued with both sides putting out vague statements – the talks are secret and few details are being given to the citizens – spouting optimism, pessimism and sometimes both at the same time.
With some 68 percent of Greeks surveyed against the name giveaway – as is Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – and protests on the streets going on, the Premier is in a tough spot.
His popularity has plummeted after repeatedly reneging on anti-austerity promises and was said to want a deal desperately to put a political feather in his hat as the man who solved a problem that has eluded diplomats over the years.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev insisted on Thursday that even though he is “optimistic” there is still enough time for a deal before the European Council meetingh on June 28-29.
“Although it is not easy, it is a very sensitive issue,” he said, adding that it is “very important to find a sustainable and permanent solution that would be 100 percent safe for future generations,” he said, continuing political platitudes that revealed nothing.
Zaev reportedly said that he would like to speak with Tsipras on the phone as soon as June 8. “Maybe we are going to call Athens and it might happen very soon. I won’t comment on anything else since everything was said in the Foreign Ministry statement,” he was quoted as saying.
That came after his Foreign Ministry – led by a nationalist coalition partner – said there’s likely to be more deals with time running out before key EU and NATO meetings this summer.
“The quality of the text of the agreement and the need to reach a lasting and sustainable solution acceptable to both sides by far outweigh the necessity of meeting any deadlines for the finalization of the process,” it said.
Government and diplomatic sources in Athens told Kathimerini that FYROM was at fault and trying to shift attention from growing opposition in that country onto Greece.