I will not focus the substance of the name deal reached between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Zoran Zaev, which was sealed in the Prespes Lake region last week – with all its positive and negative aspects.
Much has been written about the negotiations, the gains and the weaknesses, and the government’s politically motivated approach which to a large extent focused on domestic party benefits with the aim of dividing New Democracy.
The arguments in favor and against are strong and should be respected. Any sober observer, whatever their position, recognizes the complexity of the issue and the difficult choices that had to be made.
Unfortunately, as had been pointed out early on by this writer, the domestic debate has slipped into dangerous territory and has again brought to light innuendos or even outright accusations of “national betrayal.” All sorts of conspiracy theories have again found fertile ground, dividing politicians and society.
Yet whatever one may think of this complex puzzle, strengthening ties with our northern neighbor is, or should be, a self-evident priority of Greek foreign policy, as it will bring political, economic and strategic benefits to Greece.
If we escape our own domestic tug-of-war and try to assess Greece’s position and role in the region, as well as the dangers it faces, we will easily come to the realization that Greece should – and can – be a close ally and partner of FYROM.
This objective takes on a geostrategic character as it becomes part of a broader attempt to deter, or at least limit, Turkish infiltration in the Balkans, which has been enhanced in recent years, often with a religious dimension, which makes it more dangerous and difficult to manage.
Athens’s strong support for bringing FYROM into the European family and the Euro-Atlantic institutions – provided it fulfills the agreed conditions – serves Greece’s major strategic goal mentioned above.
It is a policy that has a positive impact, in the sense that it overturns existing stereotypes and acts as an integral part of the new relationship which we have every reason to want to build with this small country on our northern border and in the heart of the Balkans.
When Zaev, while addressing his people, thanks Athens for its efforts to curb the objections raised by some European Union countries to the opening of accession talks with his country, the wall of negativity against Greece, of mistrust and fear, and even hatred, which was erected over the last 26 years by extreme nationalists such as former prime minister Nikola Gruevski and others, starts to show cracks.
Its demolition will benefit both countries, and significantly boost Greece’s role in the region.