Mixed response by Greek gov’t to FYROM referendum result

Mixed response by Greek gov’t to FYROM referendum result

The office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did not issue a response to the result of a referendum on a name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Monday though sources said that Tsipras telephoned his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev to congratulate him for "his decisiveness and bravery in continuing with the implementation of the deal." 

Tsipras's coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, who has pledged to quit the government if the deal comes to Greece's Parliament, described the outcome of the referendum as "invalid" on Sunday night due to the low turnout. 

The Greek Foreign Ministry struck a very different tone, noting that Greece remained "committed" to the name deal and noting that objections to the agreement turned out to be "untrue" and "incorrect."

It noted that the outcome of the referendum was "contradictory."

"The result of the referendum in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, though it is a consultative referendum and not part of the binding clauses of the Prespa agreement, is contradictory: A strongly predominant “Yes” without the corresponding participation; a large part of the neighboring country’s society supported the agreement.  Yet, an important part approached it with skepticism. Greece respects the choices of the citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

In its statement, the ministry referred to a "climate of nationalism and suspicion, of daily fake news and rampant fanaticism" which, it said, "unfortunately do not allow for a sober assessment of the great benefits of the Agreement, while hindering the mutual understanding of peoples and the development of their cooperation, that are essential."

"Extreme and aggressive forms of nationalism in our region, irresponsible behaviors on what concerns the region’s future and, getting caught up in irredentist stereotypes – when history should be a school and not a prison – do not provide positive prospects for the region in general," it added. 

"The need for equitable cooperation is more and more felt in the region, as is the need for a culture of democratic dialogue to prevail, as well as for a culture of understanding and just compromises," it concluded. 

The European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn, a strong champion for the FYROM name change, played down the low turnout in a post on Twitter on Sunday night, noting that the referendum was "consultative" and referring to a "very significant 'yes' vote." 

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