Amid uncertainty over the outcome of the name deal reached between Athens and Skopje two weeks ago, the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Zoran Zaev, has urged Greeks not to be frightened of his country.
“Don’t be frightened of our small country, we don’t want to take anything from you, we are neither claiming territory nor your cultural heritage, we don’t want to change borders. What we do want is cooperation in trade and tourism,” he said during a speech at the Vienna-based Austrian Institute for International Affairs.
The deal, which foresees FYROM being called North Macedonia, was struck by Zaev and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the shores of Lake Prespes in northern Greece and has drawn vehement opposition in both countries.
In Greece, the ruling coalition of leftist SYRIZA and nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) has already lost two lawmakers over the deal which saw its parliamentary majority shrink to 152 out of 300 seats.
Zaev, who has also been dogged by strong opposition to the deal at home, including from President Gjorge Ivanov, said he was confident it will approved in FYROM’s planned referendum and called on opposition parties to embrace it, as, he said, it will secure a better future and help stabilize the region.
As part of his campaign across Europe to promote the deal, Zaev is expected to meet senior ranking European Union officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk, in the coming days.