Name deal inches forward as Athens-Skopje flights start


The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is on Friday expected to present his government’s proposed amendments to the country’s constitution. The amendments are necessary for the ratification of the name deal signed with Greece in June under which the Balkan nation will be called North Macedonia. 

FYROM’s Justice Minister Renata Deskoska said on Thursday the proposals include “guarantees with regard to the identity of the Macedonian people – its culture, historical heritage and language.” 

For its part, Greece has stressed the importance of distinguishing between (North) Macedonian citizenship and nationality. 

Meanwhile, the prospect of close ties between the erstwhile rivals was highlighted on Thursday during a visit to Athens by FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani, who flew back to Skopje on the first direct flight between the two capitals in more than a decade.

The one-hour flight by Greece’s Aegean Airlines will take place twice a week. “Greece will be our closest ally, and now I am heading to the airport as we re-establish an air connection that symbolizes a new strategic partnership in the region,” Osmani said after talks with Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos. Osmani had traveled to Athens by car.

Katrougalos said the name deal will not only resolve a problem that has burdened both countries but will also “stabilize the wider Balkans and the European prospects of our region.”

Meanwhile, FYROM’s criminal court, which is investigating allegations of unlawful political financing, ordered a temporary freeze on the sale or lease of 69 properties owned by the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE, including its headquarters.

Former prime minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski and other party officials have been implicated in a money-laundering case code-named “Talir,” which alleges that the party received 4.9 million euros in illegal funding in the period between 2009 and 2015. Prosecutors have been investigating the case since since May 2017.