Just a few days before Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias heads to Skopje, a shadow has been cast over negotiations to resolve the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after it emerged that his counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov, reportedly described Greece’s positions during his contacts with European Union officials as bordering on the “absurd.”
According to diplomatic sources, Dimitrov’s remarks did not go down well in Athens, with officials questioning the approach of authorities in Skopje with regard to the negotiations.
It is not lost on Athens, however, that Dimitrov, who was a member of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party until 2014, is also part of a fragile coalition under the leadership of Socialist Zoran Zaev, and that his rhetoric is also aimed at a domestic audience.
Tensions ran high this week as FYROM’s Parliament approved a law allowing for the wider use of the Albanian language, despite the efforts of opposition nationalists, spearheaded by former prime minister and ex-VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski.
Gruevski, along with other lawmakers, pulled away the microphone and spilled water on the desk of parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi during the vote.
Nationalists in the Greece’s Balkan neighbor are opposed to granting additional rights to its large ethnic Albanian minority.
Zaev has pledged to resolve the name issue with Athens in order to pave the way for the country’s accession to NATO and the EU.
However, the antics surrounding this week’s parliamentary vote drew scathing comments from European diplomats.
According to French Ambassador in Skopje Christian Thimonier, the vote was adopted without a minimum of consensus and without a civilized discussion.
“It was a disappointing day because we saw events that we thought we had already turned our backs on,” he said, adding that “what we saw was nothing but a glimpse of what a parliament of European state should not be.”