With the period head of the June 28 European Union summit widely viewed as the “last chance” for a deal to end the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that an agreement for a composite name with a geographical qualifier “in front of the name ‘Macedonia,’” would be a “great victory” for Greece.
Describing the current phase of the United Nations-brokered talks between Athens and Skopje as “crucial” and “sensitive,” Tsipras said that “steps have been made and we are moving ahead in defense of a national position.”
Talks reached an apparent stalemate again after a brief signal of a breakthrough last week in talks between Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart, Zoran Zaev.
Responding to criticism of the government’s handling of the talks, Tsipras said that the aim is to “take something back, not give something away, something that for the past 70 years has been surrendered by others.”
The remarks by Tsipras, who met in Thessaloniki on Friday with Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, was slammed by opposition New Democracy.
“The prime minister who has failed miserably in all the negotiations he has carried out for Greece had the nerve today to claim that the government is trying to take back and not give a name to Skopje,” ND said in a statement.
After the apparent rejection last week of “Ilindenska Makedonija,” sources say both sides are now discussing another name, apart from the four proposed by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
Greece insists any name agreed on must be used erga omnes – nationally and internationally – and that FYROM must rid its constitution of anything that can be construed as irredentist.
Analysts say that if there is no deal by the June summit, which is expected to pave the way for EU accession talks with Skopje to begin, then the negotiations would reach an impasse.
This would mean that Zaev would not able to use the prospect of EU accession as a carrot to call a referendum on a new name and garner enough votes in Skopje’s parliament to revise FYROM’s constitution.
Furthermore, Tsipras will likely find himself in the middle of an election campaign. Even if he doesn’t opt for snap polls this year, the country will kick into election mode ahead of European Parliament elections in May 2019.