NEWS

Zaev’s choice of words irks Athens

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

The Greek government is concerned by the insistence of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on calling his country “Macedonia” following Greece’s approval last week of the Prespes deal changing the country’s name to North Macedonia, but is expecting a shift in stance when the change is formalized, Kathimerini understands. 

A series of references by Zaev to “Macedonia,” chiefly on social media, have put government officials in a difficult position by undermining their argument that the Prespes deal achieves what Greece has long sought: a composite name with a geographical qualifier for the country’s Balkan neighbor. 

In comments to Kathimerini, FYROM’s government spokesman Mile Bosnjakovski said the term “North Macedonia” would be adopted immediately after “the final step of the Greek Parliament, namely the ratification of the NATO accession protocol.” 

Meanwhile Greek officials refer to a “transitional phase” until the deal is formalized. In comments to Real FM, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos expressed conviction that “our neighbors will show good will.”

Questioned about Zaev’s insistence on using the term Macedonia, Tzanakopoulos remarked that “Zaev, technically, has that right, until certain judicial, formal procedures have been completed.” “Day by day, everyone in Greece, but particularly in North Macedonia, will become aligned with what is foreseen in the Prespes deal,” he said.

Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos conceded that that “technically, the deal is not yet in force.” “In any case though, it is clear that both sides should respect the spirit of the deal and what it foresees,” he said. Referring to a “grace period,” Katrougalos said the deal would come into effect once Greece ratifies the accession protocol.

The government is keen for that grace period to be brief as it is hoped that MPs of leftist SYRIZA, many of whom came under fire for backing the Prespes deal, can return to their constituencies soon for campaigning ahead of elections.

SYRIZA’s general secretary Panos Skourletis is to speak in Kozani on Friday while leftist Euro MP Dimitris Papadimoulis is to speak in Serres on the same day. A protest is planned in Serres for the same day by opponents of the Prespes deal.

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