ATHENS – After two massive rallies earlier this year failed to dissuade anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras from going ahead with plans to give away the name Macedonia to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), more demonstrations are planned for several Greek cities on June 6.
A group calling itself the Committee for the Struggle of Macedonia’s Greekness said it is putting together the protests to begin simultaneously at 7:30 p.m. that night in a bid to keep Tsipras from allowing Greece to give up the name of an ancient Greek province abutting FYROM as the two governments are furiously trying to reach a deal.
Tsipras said he wants to end a 26-year dispute that began when a New Democracy government under then-Premier and New Democracy Conservative leader Constantinos Mitsotakis allowed the new country to Greece’s north breaking away from the collapsing Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia temporarily.
That turned into an impasse when successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki as well as Greek history, culture and heritage.
Since then Greece has vetoed FYROM’s hopes of getting into the European Union and NATO. United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer, has failed for two decades to broker a solution but this year stepped up talks after a three-year break amid speculation the US wants to bring FYROM into the defense alliance as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.
While Greece could continue to use its veto to force FYROM to take a name that does not include Macedonia, more than 140 countries already use that name to refer to FYROM and Nimetz said Greece must concede, suggesting it’s already lost the name battle.
The Macedonia committee said it wants to “remind” Tsipras that “Greek people have made their decision,” with 68 percent previously rejecting the name giveaway, a survey showed. That decision, it added, is to reject any solution that contains the term “Macedonia,” which would be seen as expressing irredentist ambitions over the real Macedonia, reported Kathimerini.
It will put new pressure on Tsipras, who, with FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev has been accelerating talks before crucial EU and NATO meetings this summer but with SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos opposing any deal allowing the use of Macedonia’s name.
After meetings with officials in Washington and FYROM’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov, in New York last week, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias went to Brussels for an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on May 28.