German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday hailed progress in talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, noting that a solution appeared “close.”
“I am very pleased and relieved that... there is movement in the talks,” Merkel told a press conference in Berlin with FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“In the last 10 years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged.”
Merkel’s reference to Zaev as “prime minister of Macedonia” caused displeasure among Greek officials who want the country’s name to include a geographical qualifier and for the term “Macedonia,” if used, to be the Slavic “Makedonija.”
Zaev said his country was committed to entering Western alliances, saying there is “no alternative to NATO and EU membership.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to discuss the topic with Merkel at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels Friday.
In a related development, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos called on FYROM yesterday to revise its constitution and rid it of all irredentist references.
“The name they want to use and which is in their constitution is a name that violently distorts history,” he said in Ioannina, northwestern Greece, during celebrations marking the 105th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Ottoman rule.
He also called on FYROM and Turkey to respect international and European law.
The Greeks, he said, are a “nation of peace and democracy, and know how to defend, when needed, our borders, our territorial integrity and our national sovereignty that now comprise the frontier, territory and sovereignty of the European Union.”