Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

A solution to the name issue, and dealing with it at home

COMMENT

Matthew Nimetz (center), UN special representative for the name dispute between Greece and FYROM, talks to journalists following a meeting in Skopje, in this file photo.

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

For a number of reasons – most importantly the election of pragmatist Zoran Zaev as prime minister of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – it seems that we can expect a coordinated and well-planned effort to resolve the lingering name dispute between Athens and Skopje over the next six months.

It is of course up to Skopje officials to hammer out a position regarding the procedure as well as any proposals put forward by United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz on a composite name and other issues.

As far as Athens is concerned, and given the existing political equilibrium, the main question concerns the stance of the Independent Greeksv (ANEL), the right-wing coalition partner in the SYRIZA-led government.

Major national issues leave no room for politicking. New Democracy will also have to go the extra mile. This may seem easier for the party’s liberal chief, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, than for the party’s conservative right wing. He will still have to do so. A precondition seems to be that no side will seek to score partisan points – certainly not ANEL leader Panos Kammenos.

Kammenos will find it very hard to escape unscathed from an inevitably painful compromise on a national issue of this sort. After all, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s coalition partner and defense minister largely aims to attract voters from the same pool as New Democracy.

ANEL, without whom the government would not have a parliamentary majority, cannot afford to play two opposite roles at the same time.

As long as the government lives up to its duty of pursuing a responsible negotiating strategy while keeping the opposition informed of developments, then it will have every right to expect – if not demand – that New Democracy and the Movement for Change (the new center-left alliance led by PASOK’s Fofi Gennimata) throw their weight behind the effort to heal this open wound.

And, finally, because adopting a common, national stance on this issue lies beyond the prime minister, the defense minister and the opposition party leaders, the most appropriate procedure would be to have a meeting led by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos where everyone will assume their share of the responsibility. That also includes Pavlopoulos himself, as he will have to safeguard any agreement that may arise, in keeping with his office, so that there are no “victors” or “losers” at home.

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