The Prespes name deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) appeared to face further hurdles after junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos pronounced the agreement dead.
Kammenos, the leader of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) and a staunch opponent of the deal, made his remarks on Friday in the wake of recent references by FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to a “Macedonian” identity and language.
“Zaev’s latest comments have put an end to any discussion concerning the survival of the so-called Prespes deal,” Kammenos said in a post on the nationalist party’s website on Friday.
The comments by the ANEL leader, who is also Greece’s defense minister, were seen as a blatant violation of a “moratorium” with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, stipulating that the deal will not come between them until it goes to the Greek Parliament for ratification in March.
During a heated cabinet meeting in October, Tsipras had said that he would not “tolerate" a situation where the government did not speak with one voice.
But Kammenos appeared to ignore Tsipras and went on to contradict the government’s position with regard to FYROM’s induction to NATO, saying it will never join due to its irredentist rhetoric and “propaganda” that recalls 20th century dictators.
“Skopje’s irredentist and provocative behavior shows the international community that not only is it unprepared to be a part of international organizations, but also vindicates all those who have insisted from the start on the certainty that they are trapped in the propaganda of [Benito] Mussolini and [Yugoslav leader Josip Broz] Tito,” he added.
In a speech at Skopje University on Thursday night, Zaev declared, “We are ‘Macedonians’ who speak the ‘Macedonian’ language and no one can deny it.”
But Kammenos was not alone in his rebuke of FYROM’s rhetoric, as the centrist party To Potami, which has backed the deal, also expressed concern on Friday over the “irredentist nature” of statements emanating from Skopje.
The government however downplayed concerns that the deal will not make it through Parliament, with its spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos insisting that it has enough lawmakers to back it.
Tzanakopoulos also ruled out speculation that ANEL may back a censure motion against the government if it is brought to Parliament by New Democracy.
Speaking to 24/7 Radio, Tzanakopoulos said that Kammenos has vowed not to team up with ND or any other party in the Parliament “to overthrow the government.”