Trying to settle a 26-year-old dispute, United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz said a new composite name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) being arranged with Greece would be in Slavice – but English too.
That would undercut aims of Greece’s anti-nationalist ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which is trying to find a compromise to give away the name Macedonia – that of an ancient Greek province which abuts FYROM – but with a qualifier.
Nimetz, an American lawyer who has failed for two decades to find a solution, has stepped up negotiations after a three-year break and as the United States wants an answer so that Greece will lift its veto over keeping FYROM out of NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said he’s willing to let a new name for FYROM still include the word Macedonia, had noted that 140 of the world’s 195 countries already call Greece’s neighbor as Macedonia, which a New Democracy-led government did in 1992 when allowing that word in the FYROM acronym.
Nimetz, who went to Athens and to the FYROM capital of Skopje to accelerate the talks, has reportedly proposed five names:
• Republika Nova Makedonija (Republic of New Macedonia)
• Republika Gorna Makedonija (Republic of Upper Macedonia)
• Republika Severna Makedonija (Republic of Northern Macedonia)
• Republika Vardarska Makedonija (Republic of Vardarska Macedonia)
• Republika Makedonija (Skopje).
Those are variations of what he’s been recommending for years without success as previous hardline governments in FYROM, before moderate Zoran Zaev became Prime Minister last year, keep provoking Greece, claiming Greek lands such as the real Macedonia and Thessaloniki, Greek culture and heritage and even Alexander the Great as its own.
But Nimetz said every country reserve the right to choose which version of the name it will use – the Slavic, the English, or one in their own language which means in practical terms it will be called Macedonia in headlines and Greece will have given away the name forever.
So far, all FYROM has offered in return, even though Greece can block its entry into the European Union as well, is to change the name of its airport and major thoroughfare now named after Alexander, but has not taken steps to change the Constitution will still has irredentist claims on Greek territories.
Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, feeling the heat after a massive protest in Thessaloniki on Jan. 21 against giving away the Macedonia name, and with another scheduled on Feb. 4 in Athens, now said FYROM must change its Constitution first.
The Church of Greece, which is opposed to the name giveaway, had said it wouldn’t back protests but now has also changed its mind with public fury growing over plans by SYRIZA to do it, despite opposition from its own coalition member, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
Zaev said a referendum he would call over any prospective deal would give Greece assurances although it was reported Kotzias wanted him to renege on that promise to let citizens of his country have a vote, which Tsipras doesn’t want for Greeks.
“(The referendum) will be an added guarantee to Greece that the solution will be permanent and will remain forever,” Zaev said as he moved toward trying to find a resolution that would lead FYROM into NATO and the EU.
But surveys show up to 68 percent of Greeks oppose the deal, which would sink Tsipras and Kotzias’ plans to give the name away.
Tsipras called a July, 2015 referendum asking Greeks to back him in defying austerity demands from international creditors but when they gave him a rousing vote of support, he reneged on that too along with breaking his vows on anti-austerity promises and virtually every pledge he made to get into office after criticizing former governments for what he did.