Despite disappointment with the decision of certain European leaders not to start European Union accession talks with North Macedonia, the country’s political forces appear to have kept their eye on that goal, which means they still have to fulfill the commitments they have made.
Whatever happens on the domestic political scene in Skopje over the next few months as the country heads to snap elections in April, our neighbors and the international community need to know that Greece for its part, stands by the Prespes agreement and will continue to implement its terms. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said as much, even though he was officially opposed to the name deal when it was agreed by his predecessor. That means that the agreement is endorsed by the country’s two biggest parties, which represent about three-quarters of the Greek electorate.
Athens’ strategic goal and the message it needs to send out in every direction – regardless of minor differences domestically – is that the deal will be respected and North Macedonia needs to become a member of the EU and NATO. The Prespes agreement paves the way for the Balkan nation’s stability and prosperity by promising induction in the two Euro-Atlantic pillars. Greece has played an important role in the EU in this direction, and has a strategic and commercial stake in seeing it materialize.
Apart from the observation of former PASOK minister and constitutional expert Evangelos Venizelos, that freezing the accession talks might have a negative impact on the implementation of the Prespes agreement, as the latter stipulates that the use of the composite name domestically depends on the start of the negotiations and the opening of chapters, Athens is still looking forward to the process. It wants to see the oversight that comes with the assessment of each chapter resulting in North Macedonia’s modernization so that it may become a dependable regional partner, while it also hopes that the talks will address Greek concerns regarding trademarks etc.
The international community acknowledges that Greece has made good on its commitments and that it sincerely hopes to become North Macedonia’s closest strategic ally and commercial partner in the region, even contributing with its military presence in safeguarding its neighbor from external threats.
These are the facts, and they cannot be ignored by anyone, including the North Macedonians themselves. In any case, it will be up to them to decide their country’s fate at the polls in April.