The crisis in the ranks of the government over the Prespes name deal appeared to intensify on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who leads the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), clashing over the issue during a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to encourage unity.
Opening the meeting, Tsipras urged his ministers to promise not to back “efforts by the right and the far-right” to topple the government over Greece’s name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and not to support a possible censure motion against the government by the main opposition New Democracy party, according to sources.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura was the first to express her support for the government, in a message on Twitter posted during the cabinet meeting, saying that she would vote on the Prespes deal according to her conscience. As Kountoura is an ANEL MP, her comment was widely interpreted as a sign that she would break with Kammenos, who opposes the Prespes deal.
Kammenos, who proposed an alternative to the Prespes deal during an official visit to Washington last week, came under fire during the meeting from Kotzias, who signed the pact with his FYROM counterpart in June. According to sources, Kotzias accused Kammenos of embarrassing Tsipras and the country, stressing that it is not his job to make foreign policy. Kammenos is said to have hit back, declaring that he has a right to express his opinion.
Government sources did not confirm or deny reports of the clash during the meeting, with Kotzias refusing to comment to reporters. Later in the day, Kotzias visited President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to brief him on developments. Although unofficial, the meeting drew particular interest due to the growing upheaval in the government and amid rumors that a vote on the Prespes deal in Greece’s Parliament could prompt the migration of ANEL MPs to leftist SYRIZA.
Commenting after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, ND referred to a “cynical theater troupe,” claiming that the government was “in decomposition.”