Ahead of an official visit to Athens on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged that he will always stand by Greece’s side in its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). In an exclusive interview that will be published in full in tomorrow’s Kathimerini English Edition, Sarkozy praised the understanding that he has developed with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The French president said the Greek premier is not just a partner but «a friend.» He said that the two have formed an understanding based on a shared view of the structural reforms that their countries have to undergo. Sarkozy believes that the two leaders have a common will to «change and modernize our countries.» But it is the French president’s comments about the Macedonia dispute that will probably be most welcome in Athens. Sarkozy backed Greece’s position at the NATO summit in Bucharest, which saw FYROM’s bid to join blocked. Sarkozy told Kathimerini that Greece could always expect to have France’s sympathy and support on the issue. He also wants Greece to play a significant role in the setting up of a Mediterranean Union to deal with issues that particularly affect the area. Sarkozy, whose maternal grandfather was a Jew from Thessaloniki, will become the first foreign leader to address Parliament this century. The last foreigner to be given this honor was the senior George Bush in 1991.