NEWS

Name talks push ahead as rallies in Greece protest compromise

VASSILIS NEDOS

Mihalis Batziolas/Eurokinissi

TAGS: Politics, Protest, Diplomacy

As rallies were held across Greece on Wednesday to express opposition against the government making any compromise in the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sources said that intense behind-the-scenes negotiations are under way between Athens and Skopje to clinch a deal.

If the two sides do reach an agreement, then prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev are expected to talk on the phone to set up a meeting, most likely in Prespes, northern Greece, to announce the deal, which Skopje hopes will pave the way for it to join NATO and start European Union accession talks.

But nothing has been set in stone yet as both premiers, Zaev in particular, face opposition on the domestic front.

Furthermore, despite the intensification of negotiations and the public declarations by both prime ministers that they are committed to resolving the decades-old dispute, there are still many hurdles.

One of these hurdles concerns the EU and the opposition of several of its members to the bloc’s further expansion, at least for now. These countries include France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark. Moreover, there are concerns that the crisis in Europe could lead to more countries joining the bandwagon against FYROM’s accession.

Nevertheless, foreign players have continued to encourage Athens and Skopje to reach a compromise.

According to US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell, Washington is working together with the EU and Germany so that FYROM can become a NATO member.

Meanwhile, conservative New Democracy said the coalition government appeared willing to accept a major compromise in its negotiations with Skopje on the name issue in order to stay in power.

In a statement, the main opposition accused the SYRIZA-led administration of undermining Greece’s bargaining power by labeling the national sensibilities of the vast majority of Greeks as far-right ideology.

Any solution to the name row, the party said, must include changes to FYROM’s constitution and the removal of any references of an irredentist nature, such as those to a “Macedonian” ethnicity and language.

“Our warning to Tsipras is clear. He has no political legitimacy to commit our country to an international agreement that will be detrimental to national interests,” ND said.

The prime minister’s office responded by saying that ND is playing the nationalist card and is trying to divide Greeks as it tries to “hide its inability to articulate a clear and responsible position on the name issue due to internal differences.”

Rallies took place yesterday in more than 20 cities across Greece to express opposition to a compromise in the name talks.

The rallies took place in 16 towns and cities in Macedonia: Pella, Kavala, Drama, Serres, Kilkis, Polykastro, Lagada, Nea Moudania, Edessa, Florina, Kastoria, Kozani, Ptolemaida, Katerini, Veria and Siatista. Demonstrations were also held in Larissa, Thiva, Ioannina, Rhodes, Hania, Corfu and Halkida.

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