Amid intensive talks with party leaders to secure the parliamentary votes needed to ratify a contentious deal on the name dispute with Greece, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Friday sought to dampen concerns in Athens over the agreement.
In an interview with Greece’s Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, Zaev said that according to a constitutional amendment to be put to vote in FYROM’s parliament this week, citizenship does not signify ethnic background. He added that the Balkan country’s language is part of the Slavic family of languages, as recognized by the United Nations. Zaev also stressed the distinction between the ancient Greek legacy in the region and his country’s own history.
FYROM’s prime minister went on to slam the controversial nation-building campaign carried out by his predecessor, Nikola Gruevski, including the erection of dozens of faux-antique statues of ancient warriors and kitschy columned structures. FYROM paid a hefty price for this policy, he said, adding that it will not repeat the same mistakes.
Zaev’s comments were picked up by the Greek government, which said they “blew a hole” in the arguments of the main New Democracy opposition, which has criticized the agreement as recognizing a “Macedonian” nationality and language. There was no immediate response from ND.