More friction over name dispute

More friction over name dispute

The government is expected to gauge whether there is room for consensus among Greek political parties with regard to the decades-old name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after the New Year holiday, according to reports on Thursday.

Sources said on Thursday that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will initially seek to register the positions of all parties before negotiations with Skopje begin in earnest.

If these negotiations make progress, then the Council of Political Party Leaders will be convened. The government is also expected to sound out independent MPs whose votes could prove pivotal to sealing the deal.

The issue has been a source of friction within the ruling coalition of leftist SYRIZA and right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL).

ANEL leader Panos Kammenos has stated repeatedly that he will not back any deal that would allow FYROM to use the term “Macedonia,” and his position has been gaining traction among other MPs of the junior coalition partner.

“You cannot flip-flop on national issues,” ANEL lawmaker Dimitris Kammenos told Thema Radio on Thursday. He said that he had heard Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias claiming the decision would need to be approved by a majority in Parliament. “If someone blackmailed me to vote [in favor of a deal] or leave, I would leave,” he added.

ANEL’s vice president, Panayiotis Sgouridis, echoed similar sentiments, suggesting to Alpha Radio yesterday that a referendum should be held on the matter. He said that ANEL would vote no in a referendum over whether the solution should include the term “Macedonia,” but clarified that if the “people decide differently then we will respect the decision.”

The coalition’s lack of a uniform stance on the issue has prompted fierce criticism from the opposition, with New Democracy urging it to either make up its mind or call elections.

Former conservative foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis upped the ante further on Thursday, saying ND will vote against any deal if it does not have both coalition partners’ support.