Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

No winners or losers on 'Macedonia' issue

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

Despite the numerous undeniable obstacles, the search for a mutually accepted solution on the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is continuing. Following Nikos Kotzias’s highly symbolic visit to Skopje last week, the Greek foreign minister and his counterpart in FYROM will meet in Vienna on Friday with United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz.

Nimetz understands that there is now a window of opportunity and, in this light, will attempt to build on the increased activity on a bilateral level.

In any case, the effort is progressing with the aim of reaching an agreement before the NATO summit in July.

All evidence shows the two countries’ prime ministers want an agreement. It is true that we have the makings of a solution. We are talking openly and publicly of a composite name – the official Greek position since 2007, which Skopje has accepted in recent months – with the term “Gorna Makedonija” (Upper Macedonia) seemingly gaining ground.

At the same time, discussions are focusing on changing parts of FYROM’s constitution, as well as on other aspects, such as identity and language. The two sides are also considering a deal similar to that signed a few months ago between FYROM and Bulgaria.

The current government in Skopje does not hold the necessary two-thirds majority to change the constitution. However, a possible constitutional revision, which is necessary for many reasons, should not be interpreted, or presented to public opinion, as a “concession” to Greek and international pressures since the country’s constitution will have to change anyway in the context of FYROM’s membership of the international organizations it is so keen to join.

As for Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras may be willing to take the difficult steps, but this is not enough. It is not acceptable for his coalition partner to be fighting the deal. The prime minister has to secure the consensus of Independent Greeks (ANEL) in an agreement that should be presented as an honorable compromise, without winners or losers. It is institutionally irrational and politically unfair to demand that the opposition parties – notably New Democracy and the Movement for Change – overcome their reservations and build a national consensus, while the coalition partner refuses to.

Considering Panos Kammenos’s behavior so far, we may witness the insanity of having the minister of defense attack those who accept a compromise achieved by the government of which he is part of. He may also accuse them of being “traitors” – a typical Kammenos tactic.

Greece has many reasons to want to close this chapter. The behavior of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should have convinced every sane Greek, even the most skeptical, of what the national priority should be. But if a solution on the name issue is to be achieved, there cannot be winners or losers on the domestic front either.

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