Athens and Skopje are reportedly discussing “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia” as a candidate name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as part of the solution to the decades-old dispute.
The proposal was reportedly put forward during talks in Sofia on Friday between the prime ministers of the two countries, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev.
According to sources, mainly in the government in Skopje and FYROM media, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev proposed the composite name “Ilindenska Makedonija,” or Republic of Ilinden Macedonia.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was informed by Tsipras on the phone, and former PASOK foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos, rejected the name outright, saying it was irredentist.
According to New Democracy sources, the term Ilinden is linked historically and directly with efforts to create a “Macedonian” nation which includes Thessaloniki and extends to the Aegean.
Ilinden refers to an anti-Nazi uprising in the Balkans in 1944 which, however, sought to unify the geographic area of Macedonia, including parts of Greece.
Officials in Skopje said this proposal would likely be acceptable to FYROM’s opposition parties, thereby meeting a Greek demand that any name to emerge from the United Nations-brokered talks must be used “erga omnes” – domestically as well as internationally.
The approval by the opposition would also pave the way for a review of FYROM’s constitution, which is another Greek demand.
It was not clear whether Athens is considering the proposal as a basis for continued talks or whether Skopje is trying to get the talks to acquire a more realistic dynamic.
Tsipras reportedly told Zaev that the new name proposal needs some time to be processed and stressed the need to keep expectations low. He also said that that the two sides “have covered a great part of the distance,” but there was “more to cover.”
Tsipras will Saturday morning meet with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and will also brief the other heads of Greece’s parliamentary parties, to reportedly stress the government’s intention to insist that any name will be used erga omnes and that FYROM reviews its constitution to change clauses viewed by Greece as expressing irredentist ambitions.