ATHENS – With optimism rising that Greece will finally be able to settle a name issue with its neighbor he Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM,0 the major rival New Democracy wants the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to explain how that will be done and is calling for a unified “national position” on the issue.
Greece has blocked FYROM’s ambitions to enter NATO and the European Union as the two – with Greece having veto power in both institutions which recognize unanimity – have wrangled over the word Macedonia in the acronym as that’s also the name of Greece’s northern province bordering FYROM.
With a new government in place in FYROM moderating the hardline that had been taken by previous administrations, United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, who’s been trying to get a resolution for 23 years, said he thinks 2018 is the year it will get done.
But SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) led by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, said it would never agree to use of the word Macedonia in whatever new name is mutually agreed, if so.
That led Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to say ANEL isn’t needed, although the government relies on its nine votes to have a scant three-vote majority in Parliament. Kotzias said the government wants a “majority of lawmakers,” not a “majority of parties,” suggesting if rival parties back SYRIZA that ANEL could be disregarded.
But New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece can’t be divided, especially since every name currently on the table, while having a geographical qualifier, still allows use of the word Macedonia, which a Greek government agreed to in 1991 and again in 2007.
FYROM has made the first major concession with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he’s rady to to renounce his country’s claim to the legacy of Alexander the Great to help solve the dispute with Greece, which claims him as well as Macedonia.
“I give up (the claim) of FYROM being the sole heir to Alexander. The history belongs not only to us, but also to Greece and many other countries,” Zoran Zaev, in power since the spring, said in a TV interview,
Zaev didn’t say if his country would also give up its claims to Greek territory in Macedonia as well as the major port city of Thessaloniki.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)