New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photo: Dimitrios Panagos
Archbishop Demetrios of America told the leadership of the Pan Macedonian Association of America that he will be attending at the demonstration planned for Sunday March, 18, at 12 pm, at the United Nations Plaza (47th Street bet. 1st and 2nd avenues) in Manhattan. The announcement was made on Saturday, during Archbishop Demetrios’ visit at the Pan-Macedonian Studies Center in Whitestone, NY, where the executive board of the Pan Macedonian Association was holding its regular meeting, attended by past presidents and presidents of Macedonian associations.
Archbishop Demetrios was briefed by Vice President Dimitris Filippidis on the demonstration. Filippides asked the blessing of the Church and requested for accommodations to be made for the churches to start and finish earlier the Sunday service, enabling people to attend. He also asked the Archbishop to speak at the demonstration and prior to that to make a call to the Greek Americans to attend.
His Eminence promised to accommodate all the requests and he wished the organizers every success. Archbishop Demetrios congratulated the Pan Macedonian Association for its long standing efforts to inform the U.S. public opinion on the issue of Macedonia.
“Unfortunately, 80% of the books on Balkans in the United States are from Skopje. This has a very negative impact, because every U.S. diplomat that is going to be placed in a Balkan country gets his information from this literature,” Demetrios said.
The demonstration is organized by the Pan Macedonian Association, the Federation of the Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and the newly formed Hellenic American Congress (and organization with 23 federations as founding members). It is a follow up of the large demonstrations that took place few weeks ago in Thessaloniki and Athens, protesting and use of the word Macedonia in the name of Skopje.
“Macedonia is Greece. United we protest the use of the name Macedonia in any shape or form and the distortion of history”, are the slogans of the demonstration.
The last large demonstration on Macedonia that took place in New York was on January 16, 1993 and it was attended by almost 10,000 people.
Filippides said that Greek Orthodox parishes from the tri-state area, Philadelphia and New England are hiring buses in order to attend. No politicians from Greece are invited to attend, in order to safeguard its non-partisan character. Besides the greetings of the organizers and the Archbishop, they have invited American public officials to participate and express their opposition to the use of the name “Macedonia” by the northern neighbor of Greece. The two countries are involved in fruitless negotiations under the auspices of the UN SG’s special envoy Matthew Nimetz. Greece has made clear that it will not allow fYROM to be accepted by NATO unless there is an agreement on the name issue, along with permanent resolution of all other issues, including claims by nationalist circles in Skopje against Greece’s territories and heritage.
Speaking on the First Program of the Greek Public Radio (ERT) on Saturday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias referred to the recent developments on the FYROM name issue. Kotzias said that the Greek draft agreement is completed in its first phase and has been sent from the Foreign Ministry to the government. He left open the possibility to send it to Skopje before his visit to FYROM in March, after the works for the change of the name of Skopje airport and the motorway have been completed.
Asked on the FYROM’s Constitution and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s statements, Kotzias clarified that “what the other side says is not the agreement or what we say” adding that “the main representatives of our friendly country in the north should not state in these categorically ways points of the negotiation”.
Kotzias made clear that “the only way to safeguard the stability of the name that will be agreed is by becoming part of the Constitution” adding “we insist that we want an agreement that will last, an agreement that will resolve problems and not create new ones”.
FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in comments published by the Balkan Insight website on Friday that all those involved in negotiations aimed at resolving a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter’s name are keen to reach a solution by the end of March
Zaev said he believed his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras “genuinely wants to find a solution,” adding that Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias “is also making an effort.”
“I have the same feeling that guided me from the beginning, namely that a solution is possible,” he said.
“At the same time, however, we are convinced that a solution must safeguard the identity and dignity of both sides.”
Asked about the possible need for a revision of FYROM’s constitution, in line with Greek demands, Zaev said that, “both sides should not raise issues which make a solution impossible.”