North Macedonia Premier Claims Macedonia Title, Brings Greek Fury


Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev speaks at the Delphi Economic Forum held out of Zappeion Hall in Athens. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – After North Macedonia insisted on calling its soccer team Macedonia during the European 2020 championship – in violation of a name deal – Greece's New Democracy said it would move toward freezing parts of the agreement.

At the same time, a defiant North Macedonia Premier Zoran Zaev was urged to fully implement the so-called Prespes Agreement, named after the lake which is on the border of the countries, but he showed no signs of doing so.

The newspaper Kathimerini said that has led Greece to defer the planned parliamentary ratification in July of three memoranda cooperation memorandums signed between the two countries to September and maybe later.

That was in response to Zaev tweeting that his country's soccer team is representing Macedonia – a Greek province on the border – after he said he would work out trouble over the name during the tourney.

“We demand the full implementation of the Prespes agreement and its spirit and we call on Mr. Zaev to refrain from divisive rhetoric, especially in such a sensitive issue as football,” government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said.

“In any case, the good faith implementation of the agreement is one of the criteria for the country’s accession to the European Union,” she noted.

Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who opposed the name deal that was brought by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, had been conciliatory and there were no reports whether he would, as vowed, require North Macedonian companies not to call their foodstuffs and other products as Macedonian, cutting into Greek companies' markets.

Peloni reminded reporters what New Democracy's disagreements were with the SYRIZA-brought name deal that gave away the name of the Greek province, the Conservatives getting their backs up.

North Macedonia has been sliding back toward trying to claim a Macedonian language and identity in violation of the deal, with Greece having no real recourse about it because it's done.

Attending a between North Macedonia and the Netherlands in Amsterdam, Zaev tweeted: “From the stadium in Amsterdam, I offer my strong support to the Macedonian national football team,” which didn't go down well in Athens.