Athens said it expects the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to fully respect the “letter and spirit” of the name deal it signed with Greece last summer after reports that the Balkan country’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that “Macedonians” in Greece will have the right to be taught the “Macedonian” language.
According to FYROM news sites mkd.mk and vecer.mk, Zaev’s remarks were made to a lawmaker of the nationalist VMRO party who asked about the fate of so-called “Aegean Macedonians” under the deal – also known as the Prespes agreement.
In response to questions posed by Kathimerini – whether Zaev did indeed refer to “Aegean Macedonians” and their right to be taught “Macedonian,” and if his comments imply the existence of a “Macedonian” minority in Greece – FYROM’s government spokesman Mile Bosnjakovski said that under the Prespes deal his country’s language belongs to the group of southern Slavic languages and that it will become an official language of the European Union when FYROM joins the bloc.
He also said there are no articles in the deal specifying language use in FYROM and Greece. He didn’t say whether Zaev referred to “Aegean Macedonians.”
Earlier, Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said that Athens expects FYROM to fully respect the name deal it signed with Greece last summer “in letter and spirit” but added that Athens must first see the exact text of Zaev’s remarks.
Greece insists that FYROM’s insistence on describing the Slavic language of FYROM as “Macedonian” is tantamount to an attempt to appropriate the heritage of the Greek culture of the ancient Macedonians.
Under the agreement, FYROM must erase references in its constitution that could lead to irredentist claims to Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.
For its part, opposition New Democracy slammed what it described as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s “provocative” silence on the issue.
The conservatives said in a statement that the Prespes name deal “encourages instead of erasing Skopje’s irredentism.”
“The statement by Zaev about the capability of teaching the so-called Macedonian language in our country is a provocation to all Greeks,” it said.
On Sunday, FYROM’s Parliament cleared another hurdle on the path leading to deal’s final ratification. The constitutional amendments may be finalized with a two-thirds majority of 80 MPs by the end of January.