ATHENS – Anti-nationalist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ giveaway of the name of the ancient Greek province in a new composite for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was backed by the country’s highest court.
The Council of State rejected a motion filed by various organizations, representing expatriates hailing from the real Macedonia who wanted the deal Tsipras made to let FYROM be called North Macedonia be suspended, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
Attorneys for the groups unsuccessfully argued the agreement, which has been ratified so far only in FYROM but awaits the President’s signature and a referendum before going to the Greek Parliament, likely early in 2019, violated article 27 of the Greek constitution.
They said Parliament should first have voted before the agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and that it should have required an extended majority of 180 of 300 members, not a simple majority of 151.
Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA has only 145 votes and rules with the seven votes of its junior coalition member, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is opposed to the deal.
But he, too, wants a super-majority vote so that the deal wouldn’t hinge on him, as he said he wouldn’t stand in the way of despite opposing it, a contradiction.
As Greece expelled two Russian diplomats accused of trying to bribe groups to undercut the deal, FYROM’s Premier Zoran Zaev said Greek businesses aligned with Russia want to block a referendum in his country seeking to approve the agreement.
Speaking to the news site BuzzFeed, Zaev accused Greek businessmen “sympathetic to the Russian cause” of paying large sums of money to his FYROM citizens to commit acts of violence ahead of the referendum.
He said his government received a series of reports that people were paid amounts ranging from $13,000-$21,000 without revealing the source or those he said were financing the insurrection.
He also said that he asked, in private, for help with the referendum from US President Donald Trump at last week’s NATO summit, ahead of the American leader’s meeting in Helsinki on July 16 with Russian President Vladimir Putin without explaining what he wanted.
All that came after Greece said it booted the two Russian diplomats and kept two others out of the country after “irrefutable” evidence suggested they tried to bribe officials, clergymen and far-right groups to oppose the deal.
The agreement to give away the name of the abutting ancient Greek province of Macedonia also saw Tsipras agree to lift Greek vetoes on FYROM beginning European Union entry talks and also getting into NATO.