Greece will get nothing in return in allowing the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to keep the name Macedonia in a new composite other than that country removing the name of Alexander the Great from its airport and major highway.
A statue of Alexander, which FYROM claims, has so far been allowed to stand in the capital of Skopje and Premier Zoran Zaev said he won’t change the Constitution to remove claims on Greek lands, including the real Macedonia, an ancient abutting province, and the second-largest city and port of Thessaloniki.
The anti-nationalist ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party of Prime Minister is moving to allow FYROM to keep the name Macedonia that was first allowed by a New Democracy Conservative-led government in 1992.
That was a temporary name and the two countries have feuded ever since over a permanent name although more than 140 countries in the world already refer to FYROM as Macedonia.
Although Greece has vetoed FYROM hopes of getting into NATO and the European Union, and could continue to do so, Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said the Greece, under pressure from the United States, which wants a new country in NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans, had no choice but to concede.
Zaev said Skopje has already taken a “big step” to tackle irredentism, noting that the country’s constitution was last changed in 1993.
Skopje has been striving to prove that “it has no ambitions, whether territorial or otherwise… that it has no irredentist aims,” Zaev said, although its Constitution stipulates that it does and he won’t change it.
Along with calling for a composite name including a geographical qualifier as Northern, Upper or New Macedonia, Greece called for a change to FYROM’s constitution, expressing concerns about parts of it that suggest irredentist aims but won’t get it, Zaev said.
Two massive rallies in Thessaloniki and Athens did nothing to change their minds, Tsipras and Kotzias said despite denunciations by Greek nationalists who called them “traitors” and denounced SYRIZA.
The party’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) is led by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who said he won’t accept the giveaway but won’t take his party out of the Administration if it goes ahead.
The Church of Greece though has reiterated its opposition to the name giveaway and Archbishop Ieronymos, who let clerics take part in the Athens protest after saying they shouldn’t in Thessaloniki, has defended its stance against SYRIZA’s plans.
“The Church… cannot stay silent and passive, particularly when our country’s national interests are threatened or are at stake,” Ieronymos, who is the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, told the Holy Synod.
“The Church was never indifferent to national or social issues at any historical period, but it directly or indirectly helped in understanding and ultimately solving them,” he said.