New Democracy’s shadow minister for foreign affairs, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, on Thursday demanded that the government retract a statement regarding the Church of Greece’s position on ongoing name talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Responding to a unanimous decision by the Holy Synod on Wednesday not to “back down” from its opposition to the use of the word “Macedonia” in any form in a potential solution to the decades-old name dispute, government officials likened the stance of the Church on the issue to that of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
“Has the Church’s leadership decided to align with the neo-Nazi entity of Golden Dawn?” government sources asked on Wednesday, accusing the Church of going beyond the bounds of its authority by involving itself in state and serious foreign policy matters.
“Mr Kotzias committed an enormous blunder and must remedy it immediately,” Koumoutsakos said, attributing the statement to Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
“We listen closely to and respect the Church of Greece’s opinions on the FYROM name talks, as it has good reason to be particularly sensitive to the issue and to be interested in its intense ecclesiastical dimension,” the conservative official said.
“In such cases, the responsibility of negotiations, as always, lies exclusively with the governments, which are acquainted every facet of such complex foreign policy issues. It is completely unconscionable and insulting, however, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to equate national sensitivities and patriotism to the extreme nationalism of Golden Dawn,” he added.