Despite the will expressed by both Athens and Skopje to resolve the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), political disagreements in Greece indicate that the road leading to a solution to the decades-old problem is still strewn with obstacles.
With the coalition partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) appearing to struggle in recent weeks to strike a common stance over what name a solution to the issue would entail, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated on Tuesday that he has absolutely no confidence in the government’s handling of the issue.
Mitsotakis said that New Democracy will not accept any solution that would stray from the proposal Greece presented at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 whereby it would accept a composite name, with a geographical qualifier for all uses, that will not imply irredentism on FYROM’s part.
Athens had vetoed Skopje’s bid for accession into the alliance at the summit pending a resolution of the name dispute.
The general climate in Greece will also be determined to some degree by rallies planned later in the month in Thessaloniki against any compromise on the name, and demonstrations planned by Greek diaspora organizations, mainly in the US, which have traditionally stuck to Athens’s original 1992 position that ruled out any name that would include the word “Macedonia.” The name issue will also be discussed during today’s Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.
Government spokesman Thanasis Tzanakopoulos nonetheless appeared confident Tuesday that coalition partner ANEL would not stand in the way of a solution. He also dismissed reports Tuesday in Albanian media that Athens had reached an agreement with FYROM over the name of “Republic of New Macedonia.”
“We are not interested in rife speculation regarding the name talks, but proceeding with negotiations in a serious manner so that we can find a solution within the next few months to a problem that has been dogging us for 25 years,” he added.
Meanwhile, FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, who arrived in Athens on Tuesday, reiterated Skopje’s commitment to a solution.
“We are committed to finding a solution in this six months,” he said, adding that “2018 is the golden year of opportunity for my country to make progress in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration. That is why we are committed to finding a solution.”
He added that if the issue is not resolved by April then there is no reason why talks should continue.
In any case, the prospects for a swift resolution to the issue will be revealed to a large degree on January 17, when United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz will meet with negotiators from Greece and FYROM in New York.