OPINION

The Prespes accord and US and EU credibility

the-prespes-accord-and-us-and-eu-credibility

It has been noted that Athens needs to be wary as the situation in North Macedonia becomes increasingly complex following Zoran Zaev’s resignation as prime minister.

Christian Mickovski, head of North Macedonia’s main opposition party, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, has already tabled a no-confidence vote in parliament.

In the past few days, the United States and the European Union have spoken – US Ambassador in Athens Geoffrey Pyatt did so in a very explicit way at the recent Thessaloniki Summit – of the need to uphold the Prespes agreement.

Under international pressure, Mickovski, who came out the winner in the local elections, is taking a rather vague and self-serving stance on the matter. This will not do it for Greece, and the latter needs to let it be known.

Pressure from the outside has prompted Mickovski to stop outrightly rejecting what he once called the “unacceptable” deal. He says he’s ready to accept its terms, but will never accept the term North Macedonia – one of the most important parts of the agreement.

“You cannot expect me, like Zoran Zaev, to use that designation [North]. That will never happen. But, as a part of this parliament, taking part in elections in this country, taking part in a reality that Zoran Zaev, unfortunately, adopted, we cannot ignore the Prespes agreement, which brought a new reality to ‘Macedonia.’ We cannot be hypocrites and say that it doesn’t exist,” Mickovski said in a television interview on Sunday.

Zaev’s resignation after the defeat of the governing Social Democrats may have been an exaggerated response to a local election result. Either way, it has changed everything and made the political situation in Skopje more complicated and uncertain. And even if the nationalists form a coalition government, there are no guarantees it will see out the remaining two and a half years or the present parliament’s term, as it relies on a narrow majority of 61 out of 120 seats.

Greece is, and has always been, adamant that we should respect international law. Yesterday’s exchange of instruments of ratification for the maritime zone agreement with Italy was done in this spirit.

If there is a new leadership in Skopje, Athens, but more importantly Washington and Brussels, have to make abundantly clear to them that relations – not only with Greece, but with the European Union as well – will rapidly deteriorate, including at the economic and commercial level.

Athens is North Macedonia’s biggest champion for EU induction, so when Skopje seeks support from Brussels, it will have to act toward ensuring the agreement is respected.

Greece demands the consistent use of the name North Macedonia inside and outside the country, as outlined in the agreement, which stems from international law, which is above the national constitution. It is an issue that transcends Athens-Skopje relations. If Mickovski is allowed to violate the Prespes accord, this will harm US and EU credibility across the Balkans, with everything this may entail for their respective influence and regional stability.