Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) said on Tuesday they are close to a deal to resolve a dispute over the ex-Yugoslav republic’s name that has dogged the two countries for decades.
The row has stymied FYROM’s attempts to join the European Union and the NATO military alliance in a region where the two organizations jostle for influence with Russia.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev are expected to discuss the issue by phone on Tuesday.
“Ι hope that today we can announce to the public something nice,” Zaev said.
A Greek government official, who declined to be named, said: “A deal could be announced even today.”
Greece had previously said it would accept a compound name with a geographical or chronological qualifier. An example of such a compromise could be “Northern Macedonia” or “Nova (new) Macedonia.”
Athens and Skopje are aiming to agree the outline of a settlement before an EU summit in June, though it would need to clear a referendum in FYROM and win approval from lawmakers in both countries. A NATO summit is scheduled for mid-July.
Most Greek political parties have so far rejected any use of the name “Macedonia,” even with descriptive tags, and hundreds of thousands of Greeks demonstrated in February against any compromise.
It will be a delicate balancing act for Tsipras who has a razor-thin majority in Parliament. Opinion polls show a drop in public support for him over economic reforms under a third financial bailout brokered in 2015.
His coalition partners, the right-wing Independent Greeks, have said they will not give their blessing to a deal.
“We do not agree and we will not vote for any deal including the name ‘Macedonia’,” said Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the party. He said he did not expect any accord to be backed by Skopje. [Reuters]