Amid rising tensions in both Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over United Nations-backed talks on the latter’s name, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev in Davos on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, to determine whether there are grounds for a solution to the contentious issue.
A source close to Tsipras said the scheduled meeting would be “the moment of truth” when it will be clear whether Zaev’s expressed interest in reaching a compromise is genuine.
Meanwhile, irrespective of what kind of solution may be reached, there are concerns in Athens about FYROM’s constitution, which suggests irredentist aims.
Its Article 49, for instance, underlines the importance of “the rights of people belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries and displaced Macedonians.”
Moreover there are concerns about the fact that changing FYROM’s constitution is a lengthy process.
As the negotiations move up a level, the government in Athens remains in a difficult position due to public discontent and a rift within its own ranks over the approach to negotiations.
The government has also come under fire from the opposition for failing to secure a cross-party consensus on Greece’s negotiating position. Reports that Tsipras will brief party leaders on his return from Davos did not ease objections.
Tsipras’s coalition partner Panos Kammenos, who objects to the use of the word “Macedonia” in a solution, has kept a low profile, avoiding comments on the issue as the premier has said that a composite name including the word Macedonia would be a “reasonable” solution.
Members of Kammenos’s Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, however, remain vociferous in their criticism.
Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, who belongs to leftist SYRIZA, sought to play down the rift, noting that “Kammenos is expressing his party’s position, not the government’s” but also called on ANEL cadres to be cautious so as not to undermine “the real national effort that is under way.”
The Church of Greece has also waded into the debate. The Holy Synod has insisted that the name “Macedonia” should not be included in a solution but Archbishop Ieronymos did not support last Sunday’s demonstration in Thessaloniki.
The synod is to convene again on Friday to reassess its stance after several clerics joined the rally. Meanwhile another demonstration has been planned for Athens on February 4.
Apart from his meeting with Zaev, Tsipras is expected to hold talks with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on the prospects for Greek debt relief.