NEWS

Tensions linger in coalition

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU

TAGS: Politics

Tensions between the two coalition partners are lingering despite an attempt by Independent Greeks chief Panos Kammenos to water down his controversial proposal for an alternative plan to the Macedonia name deal.

Kammenos had proposed a Balkan defense agreement during a meeting at the US State Department on Tuesday with Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell on Tuesday. 

The leader of the junior coalition partner insisted on Thursday, however, that he did not disagree with the government’s line, saying that he discussed with “friends and allies an alternative, realistic solution.” He said he had no intention of making decisions independently of the government.

Sources at Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras’s office took issue with the fact that Kammenos unilaterally took the initiative to propose an alternative deal while the name agreement with FYROM is in the process of ratification. 

Furthermore, his remarks were seen as undermining the government’s aim of promoting Greece’s role as a pillar of stability in the region, particularly at a time of political upheaval in FYROM, where Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is embroiled in a domestic struggle to win support for the name deal with Greece. 

Moreover, government officials believe that Kammenos’s proposal is not aligned with Greece’s “national strategy” as it allows FYROM to believe that there is scope for alternatives, even though the deal signed in the Prespes lake district in June stipulates the key Greek demand that the Balkan nation change its name. 

The rift in the coalition was further aggravated by the fact that Kammenos, who vehemently opposes the agreement, went back on his deal with Tsipras not to rock the boat over the matter until March. 

According to sources, Tsipras will meet with Kammenos upon his return from the US on Sunday. 

Tsipras sought to put a humorous spin to the latest crisis, telling reporters on Thursday that there is “a hurricane in the US but it is not called Panos, it’s called Michael.” 

Meanwhile, opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the upheaval in the coalition is reflecting badly on the country. 

“At a time when the main thing the country needs is to restore its credibility in every area, the government is coming across like a backwater theater troupe,” Mitsotakis said in a statement on Twitter.

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