New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday that he will not participate in a council of political party leaders to discuss the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) unless the coalition government comes up with a clear and unified stance on the issue.
“I will not go to any council of political party leaders unless the government clarifies what its position is,” he told journalists on Friday at a lunch marking the new year.
He made his remarks against the backdrop of comments by Panos Kammenos, the leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), who has repeatedly stated that he will never back a solution that includes the term “Macedonia.”
The stance of Kammenos and other ANEL officials on the matter has prompted criticism that the coalition does not have a unified stance on the issue.
Mitsotakis said that it was nonsensical for the government to ask for consensus on the matter from other parties when at the same time it engages in behind-the-scenes talks on the matter without briefing other parties and employs divisive rhetoric.
“Secret diplomacy and divisive language do not go together with a national consensus,” he said, as he denounced Foreign Ministry officials who have likened the stance of the Church of Greece on the name dispute to that of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
It is “unacceptable,” he said, for people to be derided as GD supporters just because they are sensitive about the name dispute with FYROM.
“Investing in division of the country on psychological grounds is irresponsible and dangerous,” he said and reiterated that New Democracy backs a composite name with a geographic qualifier which will put to bed any irredentist claims by Skopje.
With regard to the participation of ND officials in protest rallies over the use of the term “Macedonia” in Thessaloniki later this month, Mitsotakis said “everyone has the right to express an opinion” but clarified that foreign policy cannot be conducted via demonstrations.