Representatives of Greece and Skopje expected to meet with special envoy Nimetz in New York, on January 19
Athens.- GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA
The dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYROM) that has dragged on for more than two decades could be resolved by summer, when NATO is expected to hold its meeting, government Greek spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in an interview with state broadcaster ERT on Saturday.
“By the summer, when NATO is expected to meet, we could come up with a commonly accepted solution,” he was quoted as saying.
Echoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ recent statements on the issue, he said it is “a window of opportunity” which could lead to the solution of a problem that is pending for 25 years. Tzanakopoulos said the neighbouring country has backed down on a number of issues and refuted extreme statements, and called on all political forces in Greece to show responsibility and avoid short-sighted views.
“Resolving the issue will have a positive effect for the entire Balkan region,” he said. “We have an obligation and a duty to utilize the moment.”
Asked what is Greece’s position in the negotiations, Tzanakopulos said it is the proposal made by the former Costas Karamanlis government (2007-2008) in Bucharest.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will meet on Tuesday (Jan. 9) with FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Integration, Bujar Osmani in Athens.
Kotzias will host a working luncheon at the ministry during which the two officials will discuss European issues of mutual interest. Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos will also meet with Osmani.
Delegates from both sides are scheduled to meet with United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz on January 19 in New York.
“I think 2018 will be the year when foreign policy issues that have been stuck in the mud for decades will be resolved,” Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told reporters after a meeting of the inner cabinet.
“We will all contribute to the wellbeing of all the Balkans,” he said.
“On the name issue, the government is negotiating and supports a compound name that will be comprehensively used throughout,” Kotzias said on Thursday, without elaborating.
Greece has a “window of opportunity” in 2018 to resolve the name dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYROM), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a comment to newspaper “Nea Selida”.
“2018 is an important year for Greece, not just because we will finally exit from the memorandums after eight years, but because, at the same time, an important window of opportunity opens to resolve the name issue,” he was quoted as telling the paper.
“I am convinced it is now time to make the necessary decisions to vindicate Greece’s role as a leading power in the Balkans and as a pillar of stability in the region,” he added.
Tsipras said the country is facing an economic as well as a geopolitical challenge. “Greece must consolidate a new dynamic character, both in its economy and in foreign policy. That of a modern democratic country, investing in development, peace and confidence building. A country that progresses and solves problems,” he said.
He then criticized New Democracy for maintaining an “awkward and irresponsible” attitude without acknowledging its “historical responsibilities” for not resolving the problem. Tsipras called on all political forces to achieve a wide parliamentary consensus on the issue.
The leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos speaking to reporters on Thursday following a meeting on the issue chaired by leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, reiterated that the use of the “Greek term Macedonia” is a non-starter and expressed hope that “any solution given is one that will safeguard national interests and will be accepted by all in the political world.”
However, analysts said this doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of his acceptance of a composite name that would include a Slavic spelling of the name “Macedonia.”
Moreover, Kammenos said there were two “landmark decisions” in the negotiations – the one in 1992 by the Council of Political Party Leaders that established the Greek position that the word Macedonia should not be used in a solution and the one taken in 2008 at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, where Athens vetoed FYROM’s accession to the alliance until the dispute is resolved.
By describing both the 1992 and the Bucharest decisions as “landmarks,” Kammenos hinted that he could base his stance on the latter rather, than strictly adhering to the former which categorically ruled any use of Macedonia.
Another hint of a slight shift in Kammenos’s stance was his expression of confidence in way Kotzias is dealing with the negotiations.
Kammenos’s repeated statements that he would never support a solution that included the term Macedonia created friction within the ruling coalition prompting opposition criticism that the government does not have a uniform stance on the issue.
Meanwhile, reports from Thessaloniki suggest that demonstrations and rallies are being planned to protest the possible use of a composite name that includes the term Macedonia.
The government must present a united position on the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) , New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday in an interview with news website capital.gr.
“In order to comment on whether there really is a missed opportunity, we need to know what the official position of the majority is. So far, I’ve heard nothing. When the government formally states its position through the Prime Minister, expressing both government partners, then we will be able to comment on the details of any solution the government will finally negotiate on,” he was quoted as saying.
Asked whether he believes the proposal will be a composite name with geographic qualifiers, Mitsotakis said he preferred “not to speculate”, adding that it remains to be seen whether the government will follow that line.
Concerning the position of junior coalition party leader Panos Kammenos, he said: “I have absolutely no doubt that, eventually, Mr. Kammenos will do whatever is necessary to remain in the chair of the minister of defence […] He will demonstrate a great political flexibility in this matter, as in many other,” he added.