Greece will not back down from the “red lines” it has set in ongoing United Nations-brokered name talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), government sources said on Friday, indicating that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be briefing the president and party leaders on his meeting on Thursday with his counterpart from Skopje, Zoran Zaev.
Tsipras is said to be planning meetings with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the heads of Greece’s parliamentary parties over the weekend, where he will reportedly stress the government’s intention to insist that any name emerging from the talks will be used “erga omnes” (essentially both domestically as well as internationally) and that FYROM reviews its constitution to change clauses viewed by Greece as expressing irredentist ambitions.
Greece and FYROM appeared to be edging toward a solution on Thursday following talks between the countries’ prime ministers on the sidelines of a summit in Sofia, though Zaev appeared more upbeat about the prospects for an agreement.
The aim is for a deal to be reached in time for a European Council meeting on June 28 though it was unclear how realistic this goal might be.
According to sources, a possible solution being proposed by European officials is “Upper Macedonia.” That might not go down well, however, with the Greek leftist-led government’s right-wing junior partner, Independent Greeks, which has pledged to reject any solution containing the name “Macedonia.”
“I believe we have covered a great part of the distance, but we have more to cover,” Tsipras said in comments following the meeting at the EU-Western Balkans summit, adding that negotiations remained complex and “multilayered,” and that “we are not yet in a position to speak about a deal.”
“We have reached a critical point but the last steps are always more difficult,” he said, adding that “we have the pressure of historical responsibility but FYROM has the pressure of time,” referring to Skopje’s ambitions to join the EU and NATO.
Zaev sought to issue a more confident message. “We have discussed one solution to the name dispute that could be acceptable for both sides, but we need to have further discussions in our countries,” he said, adding, however, that any agreement would have to be endorsed by party leaders in both countries.