A joint statement signed by the United States and Greece during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit was changed to remove the word “historic,” from an agreement that renamed The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as North Macedonia.
The initial wording referred to an “historic” deal that was made by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA with US support, over the ferocious opposition of critics and nationalists, a likely factor in SYRIZA's loss in July 7, 2019 snap elections to New Democracy, which opposed the name change.
The English version of the statement was immediately published on the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry website but the Greek version wasn't published an a couple of hours later the word “historic” disappeared from the joint statement posted on both the website of the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry and of the US Embassy in Athens, said the news site Euractiv.
There was no explanation why or if Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has backed away from his opposition to the name change he denounced while out of power, wanted the word removed.
Pompeo went to Thessaloniki – which is in Macedonia, abutting North Macedonia – to kick off a visit to Greece, choosing Greece's second-largest city and major port for symbolic reasons, Greek media said.
Russian oligarchs have been influential in Greece’s north and have even attempted to block the name-change deal with North Macedonia, as did Mitsotakis and New Democracy.
Former premier and leader of the renamed SYRIZA Progressive Alliance Alexis Tsipras, who pushed the deal through despite opposition from nearly two-thirds of furious Greeks, noted the government has yet to take key details of the name change to Parliament.
The memoranda need to be approved by lawmakers and Tsipras said he wants a roll call vote so that New Democracy can be accountable, which could prove embarrassing to them as the party even marched against the deal.
“I expect 158 apologies,” Tsipras told Parliament, referring to their previous opposition to the name change agreement and the government, said the news site, can't find anyone willing to bring it before lawmakers.
When New Democracy took power, Mitsotakis reversed himself, even down to not, as he vowed, to make North Macedonia remove the word “Macedonia” from agricultural products to avoid confusion with products from the real Macedonia.
North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev met with Mitsotakis and agreed on three pacts as part of the name change deal that New Democracy now also supports after angrily denouncing it, similar to Tsipras' reneging on anti-austerity measures to get a third bailout for Greece in 2015 for 86 billion euros ($100.51 billion) from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)