Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will travel to Skopje on Tuesday, accompanied by his deputy for economic diplomacy, Kostas Fragoyiannis, in a bid to strengthen ties with North Macedonia.
The visit, which is taking place at the invitation of his counterpart, Bujar Osmani, will also include meetings with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and other political leaders.
Dendias’ visit, despite being discussed between Athens and Skopje for several months, coincides with a period during which Turkey has been exercising mild power in the Western Balkans.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan undertook a short tour of the region in recent days, while the governments of Ankara and Skopje reached a defense cooperation agreement that raised concerns in Athens.
Nonetheless, the protocols for the implementation of the 2018 Prespes Agreement do include defense cooperation between Greece and North Macedonia. What’s more, after the accession of North Macedonia to NATO, Greece conducted airspace surveillance with F-16s over its Balkan neighbor.
What is clear for Athens now is that it wants to resolve all outstanding issues in relations with North Macedonia.
According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, the talks will focus on all bilateral relations, including the economy and energy, as well as North Macedonia’s European prospects. In this context, Dendias will insist on the full implementation of the name deal.
Dendias’ visit to Skopje also takes place during a prolonged pre-election period in the neighboring country. Local elections will be held across North Macedonia in October, and the Zaev government is facing a serious challenge from candidates backed by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE.
Indirectly but clearly, the Zaev government is promoting good relations with EU countries and NATO as an electoral platform.