Although not all facets of a name change deal made by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA have been implemented, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias headed for North Macedonia on a visit at making ties closer between the infrequent political enemies.
He will be in the capital to Skopje Aug. 31, accompanied by his Deputy for Economic Diplomacy, Kostas Fragoyiannis and they are also expected to have talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and other political leaders to talk about lingering differences, said Kathimerini.
Formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) while making claims on Greek heritage and lands – including the real Macedonia in Greece on the border – the now North Macedonia has still occasionally tweaked Greece with references to its people being Macedonian, including on passports.
Dendias' visit comes after Turkey had reached out to Greece's neighbor while engaged in disputes with Greece over energy research in the seas and other issues, Turkey looking to make a Balkans move.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to the region earlier and some deals were made between North Macedonia and Turkey that sent Dendias shuttling off to Skopje in a counter move.
Under the 2018 name change deal in the face of opposition from some two-thirds of Greeks, defense cooperation is allowed between Greece and North Macedonia, which was admitted into NATO after the agreement.
According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, the talks will focus on all bilateral relations, including the economy and energy, as well as North Macedonia’s European prospects, said Kathimerini.
Dendias will insist on the full implementation of the name deal, the report said, the North Macedonian government dragging its heels for three years after getting the name change.
North Macedonian food companies still label some products as Macedonian, adding to confusion with the real Macedonia in Greece and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hasn't met his pledge to make that stop.
Dendias’ visit to Skopje takes place during a prolonged pre-election period there with local elections coming in October and the Zaev government is facing a serious challenge from candidates backed by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE opposed to the name deal.