There was information, speculation or leaks – it does not matter which – that the European Commission asked that the majority required for the Greek Parliament to ratify any agreement signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) be increased to 180 votes – that is with the agreement of three-fifths of the deputies.
Whether or not this was indeed requested – officially or behind the scenes, only from the government or from the opposition too – it would be good to focus on the essence and not on petty calculations that each political party might be making with respect to the issue.
Europeans and others who support an agreement that normalizes the situation in the Balkans want it to include binding elements that will ensure its viability and effectiveness. In this context, Greece is demanding – and rightly so – that FYROM change its constitution.
It also wants the approval of the UN to make the deal more binding.
It is true that if it is ratified by a marginal majority in the Greek Parliament it will not be underpinned by the same spirit of commitment in the long run. This is where direct or indirect pressure is being put on the opposition to support the deal.
It is a fact that, apart from the two respective governments in Greece and FYROM, opposition parties also have a role and responsibilities, as exponents of a significant section of the two peoples, and as potential future governments.
As far as Greece is concerned, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis recognizes the “window of opportunity,” but cannot be called upon to bear the political cost alone.
However, one can think of “creative” ways of helping to ensure a solution with ND’s support without having the latter pay an unfairly high price.
If the agreement provides for a transitional period and depends on internal processes in FYROM – elections and/or a referendum linking the changes in the constitution with NATO and EU membership – then the non-acceptance of the agreement by New Democracy at that stage could work as a safeguard for the Greek side, without hindering the path to a solution.
The main opposition could pledge to vote for the deal when FYROM changes its constitution in the transitional period – in which case all conditions set by Athens would have been fully met – either as a government or as an opposition party. That process could be part of the interim agreement.
If that were to happen the majority in the Greek Parliament in the second vote could even exceed 200 votes, satisfying not only the needs of the two countries involved but also every sincere third party.