ATHENS – Some 65 percent of Greeks polled said they don’t like the deal anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), giving away the name of an ancient abutting Greek province.
That was the finding of a survey from Nov. 6-16 conducted by Public Issue that showed only 17 percent in favor of the agreement for FYROM to be called North Macedonia and the door opened for its entry into NATO and beginning European Union accession talks.
Some 13 percent were neither for nor against and 5 percent said they had no opinion on the deal which has been ratified in FYROM. It now needs to pass a tough test in the Greek Parliament in March, 2019 where Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos are opposed to it.
The deal was brokered by former foreign chief Nikos Kotzias, who resigned after Tsipras backed Kammenos in a feud between the two ministers over the deal and the defense chief’s allegations that Kotzias was mismanaging a secret slush fund in the foreign ministry.
The survey showed 60 percent of people had a negative opinion of Kotzias, while 32 percent favored him and 9 percent had no opinion.
The poll also found 52 percent feel relations with Turkey, which has stepped up provocations in the Aegean, has worsened under Tsipras’ rule, while 44 percent said they were unchanged and only 2 percent said they were better.
While FYROM has already completed what it needed to be done for the deal, including approving changing its constitution to remove irredentist claims in Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, the agreement faces a rough road in Greece although Tsipras is confident he has enough votes from rivals.
Hundreds of citizens in FYROM staged a protest late Nov. 18 in the capital of Skopje objecting the potential amendment of the country’s constitution to reflect a deal with Greece to change FYROM’s name.
Brandishing flags and banners and shouting slogans including “Our name is Macedonia,” members of nationalist groups and other protesters gathered outside FYROM’s Parliament in the rain, calling for the revocation of the so-called Prespes name deal, the resignation of the government of Zoran Zaev and snap elections.
Organizers of the rally claimed that the police stopped at least 70 busloads of protesters from reaching the rally in Skopje.
The poll also asked the Greek public’s opinion about FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, for whom 53 percent have a negative view, 28 percent had a positive view and 19 percent did not have an opinion.
Respondents also commented on US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, with 39 percent said they did not have an opinion about him, 31 percent saying they held a negative view and 29 percent saying they had a positive view.