Kotzias: Irredentism obstacle to name deal

Irredentism in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the main stumbling block in attempts to solve the ongoing name dispute, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told his FYROM counterpart Nikola Poposki on Saturday, adding that Greece was mulling a series of confidence-building measures (CBMs) aimed at smoothing ties between the two Balkan neighbors.

During a meeting between the two men on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Riga, Kotzias reiterated Athens’s long-standing desire for a mutually acceptable compound name, with a geographical qualifier for all uses, domestic and international (erga omnes). Greece’s new foreign minister also said that any decision on FYROM’s EU and NATO membership will be based on the same criteria that apply for every other candidate country.

The comments came a day after Kotzias warned that a financial meltdown in Greece would flood Europe with millions of new migrants and thousands of jihadists.

“The Western Balkans are not stabilized, and then we have Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and northern Africa,” Kotzias told journalists on the sidelines of the Riga meeting Friday.

Kotzias also accused foreign governments of playing into stereotypes against Greece. “What the Europeans are doing to us is cultural racism. It is necessary for the future of Europe to find a different way of behaving toward Greece. It is also a geostrategic necessity,” he said.

Kotzias’s comments were on Saturday slammed by the conservative opposition, with New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis accusing the government of sending mixed signals.

“If Greece’s role is to fend off jihadists before they swarm Europe, perhaps [Kotzias] should advise his government against opening up the borders and releasing illegal immigrants under deportation,” Karagounis said. He was referring to a decision to abolish migrant detention centers across the country and comments by government officials suggesting that thousands of migrants could be allowed to leave Greece.

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