Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his counterpart in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Dimitrov, told reporters Thursday at a joint press conference that they are laying the groundwork of the process that will allow negotiations to resolve the decades-old dispute over the tiny Balkan country’s name.
Not much more was expected from Kotzias’s one-day visit to Skopje as substantial negotiations are expected to take place in the period stretching from October, after local elections are held in FYROM, until 2019, when national elections are expected to take place in both countries.
However, given the region’s volatility and the rise of irredentist rhetoric, analysts believe that negotiations will pick up speed in 2018. Both men said Thursday they were committed to working on good relations and regional cooperation.
Both Athens and Skopje have signaled their intent to improve relations, and the government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has pledged to push to join NATO and the European Union.
Dimitrov said Skopje expects “help and support for European integration.” Kotzias reiterated Greece’s support to all countries in the western Balkan countries in their EU and NATO aspirations, including those of FYROM, but insisted that this will happen on the condition that irredentist rhetoric is scrapped and the name dispute resolved.