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Politics

North Macedonia’s Election Winner Says Macedonia, Not North Macedonia

SKOPJE – The leader of North Macedonia’s center-right nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party that won national elections but fell short of having single party rule reignited a political flap with Greece, insisting that his country is really Macedonia.

That is the name of an abutting Greek province, Greece’s former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which made 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.

But VMRO-DPMNE chief Hristijan Mickoski said he supported the country’s new President Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova calling their country Macedonia, which set off a firestorm of criticism from Greece where Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis threatened to block North Macedonia’s hopes of joining the European Union.

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

Mickoski said that, “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.

He also urged Greek companies to invest in North Macedonia, emphasizing mutual cooperation, although some products there use the name Macedonia as well and not all aspects of the deal have been done.

There was no immediate response from Greece about his comments after Mitsotakis rapidly fired back at Siljanovska-Davkova and said her remarks were “illegal and provocative,” and drew a line in the sand over it.

The European Commission also jumped in with criticism as did neighboring Bulgaria that could also veto North Macedonia’s accession and has demanded a number of concessions that irked North Macedonians.

Trying to have it both ways, 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.”

Backed by hardliners, the VMRO-DPMNE won a landslide twin presidential and parliamentary election and will return to power after years in opposition, buoyed by its conservative nationalist policies.

Under the Prespa Agreement, the Greek Parliament was to approve three memoranda which include speeding up processes for North Macedonia’s EU accession, but is waiting to see if all the terms are implemented.

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

The agreement came after 27 years of disputes and constant provocations from FYROM that also claimed Alexander the Great and Greece’s second-largest city and port of Thessaloniki and said it was the true Macedonia.

It also led to entry into NATO but EU hopes now are on hold over the name flap although Greece earlier said it would support North Macedonia joining – as long as all the measures were finally met.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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