Greece's name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a “historic opportunity” that “looks to the future” of security and growth in the Balkans, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said during a meeting in Athens with his visiting German counterpart, Heiko Maas, on Thursday.
Greece can play a pivotal role in stabilizing the Balkans and “reducing tension,” Kotzias said, presenting Maas with a list of government initiatives on the diplomatic front.
Maas, who was in Skopje earlier this week to express Germany's support for the name deal, which is being put to a referendum there on September 30, said that he is hopeful that this “historic agreement will be implemented, as it contributes to the reconciliation of the two people.”
The German official went on to say that he hopes the agreement enjoys broader support in Greece, where it has met with opposition from within the ranks of the coalition government but also from the conservative New Democracy and other opposition parties.
Kotzias later added that he is confident that, if passed in FYROM, the agreement will be ratified by Greece's Parliament. He also said that he expects that procedure to take place in January.
Earlier in the day, the German foreign minister met with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, where the refugee crisis was the focus of talks.
Pavlopoulos described the refugee crisis as an “existential issue” for the European Union, outlining the need to strengthen the bloc's foreign and security policy, but also for “more solidarity.”
“We cannot have partners who do not meet their basic obligations as far as refugees are concerned. It is an issue of democracy and respect for fellow human beings,” Pavlopoulos said.
For his part, Maas noted the support shown by Europe to Greece through the course of the crisis, saying that it is a “sign of lasting solidarity.”
With regard to the refugee issue, Maas agreed that all partners in the European Union need to assume their responsibilities instead of trying to enjoy the rights and benefits of membership without the obligations.