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Politics

Mitsotakis Puts Brakes on North Macedonia’s EU Hopes Over Name Flap

ATHENS – As he did with Albania over the jailing of ethnic Greek Fredi Beleri after winning a mayoral election, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece will stymie North Macedonia’s hopes of joining the European Union if a new government insists on calling it Macedonia.

Speaking from the town of Veria in northern Greece during his campaign ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, Mitsotakis stated that the three memoranda of understanding linked to the 2018 agreement would not be ratified by Parliament if North Macedonia’s new leaders don’t adhere to it.

“If some believe they can disregard the agreement, they should understand that their path to Europe will remain closed, and the memoranda will not be ratified unless there is compliance with what the agreement stipulates,” he said.

“We will not ratify the memoranda unless we are absolutely convinced that the other party complies with all provisions of the agreement,” Mitsotakis earlier said in an interview with SKAI TV, hardening his stance.

That was over North Macedonia’s newly-elected President Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova calling the country Macedonia, which set off a firestorm of criticism from Greece and the EU, and the United States backing Greece.

Backpedaling over the furor, Siljanovska-Davkova’s office said that she would adhere to the country’s international obligations but that she would keep “the right to use the name Macedonia as a personal right of self-identification.”

Mitsotakis said the remarks “violate the official text of her oath and refer to her country by a different name constitutes an illegal and unacceptable initiative. It breaches the Prespes Agreement and the constitution of her state. It also undermines its future prospects.”

But Hristian Mickoski, leader of North Macedonia’s center-right nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party that won national elections but fell short of single party rule reignited the issue and said he agreed with her that their country is Macedonia.

That is the name of an abutting Greek province, Greece’s former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA making a deal early in 2019 to give away the name in allowing Greece’s neighbor, then called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to be called North Macedonia with a geographical qualifier.

“If Greece believes we violated the Prespa Agreement, let them appeal to the International Court of Justice,” Mickoski stated, referring to the name of the deal based on the signing at the border where Lake Prespa touches both shores.

Mickoski said, “We don’t expect relations between the two countries to be based on displays of power; we expect good and excellent neighborly relations,” but didn’t say how that could happen by breaking the agreement.

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