Prespes, Greece.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
The foreign ministers of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, and the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the name dispute on Sunday signed a historic agreement for resolving the decades-long issue during a lakeside signing ceremony in Prespes, where the borders of Greece, FYROM and Albania meet.
Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had addressed officials that had gathered in the village of Psarades to attend the signing ceremony.
FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, in a symbolic gesture after the signing of the agreement on FYROM name dispute, embraced Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and then took off his tie and gave it to him.
Tsipras took the tie and put it in his pocket, however, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, saw that Tsipras had not placed his tie nicely in his pocket, took it off and folded it carefully and placed it again in the Greek prime minister’s pocket.
Immediately after the signature of the agreement between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at Psarades in Prespes, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev boarded a coastguard vessel and sailed to the opposite shore of the lake to the town of Otesevo, where they had a luncheon. He became the first Greek Prime Minister to visit FYROM, while this was the third time that a FYROM prime minister has visited Prespes.
The two prime ministers had a stroll along the lake and an opportunity to talk. The foreign ministers of Greece and FYROM, Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, also made their way to Otesevo in the same way, along with the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, who had his 79th birthday on Sunday when the historic agreement was signed, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn and the representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo.
“We are here to walk together on a new path of security, our signature today lays the foundation for this course,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday at Psarades in Prespes, before the signature of a historic agreement to resolve the decades-long name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Welcoming FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as a friend and neighbour, Tsipras said that they were both at their own date with history, at the spot that had seen both victors and defeat.
“We are here to measures up with the weight of our own history,” he added. “We are both here to fulfill our patriotic duty, not to mourn the defeats of the past.”
“When we met six months ago in Davos, Zoran, very few believed we would succeed,” the prime minister added and thanked the foreign ministers of the two countries and the United Nations, saying the presence of the prime ministers in Prespes on this day was due to them.
We arrived at a mutually beneficial agreement, the prime minister said, noting that the agreement allows the two prime minister to address their people and support this patriotic agreement.
“We have a historic responsibility to not let this step remain unfinished,” he said.
“The sensitivities of our peoples were a guide for the signature of this agreement,” the prime minister said. The viability of an agreement does not end with its legal dimensions, Tsipras noted, and referred to the steps taken to improve relations between the two countries.
“The fates of the people and countries of the Balkans is interlinked, as is that of the countries of Europe,” he said.
“Our goal is that the song of joy that we write today shall be sung for many generations to come,” Tsipras added, noting that he was a great lover of Balkan music, which is sung in all languages. “In the great tradition of Balkan music, dirges figure prominently but also songs of joy and this is the kind of song we are starting to write here in Prespes, to be sung in your language and our language,” the prime minister said.
“Today we ar taking this historic step, necessary for our peoples,” the prime minister added.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev began his address on Sunday at the ceremony for the signing of the historic agreement, which could open up his country’s path to joining the European Union and NATO by wishing everyone present “good luck”.
“You cannot achieve anything without courage,” Zaev said, citing the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, and underlined the strategic significance of the agreement.
“We have put an end to the long-term problems that damaged our bilateral relations,” he said.
Over those three decades that the problem had existed “we have learned important things,” Zaev added, noting the need to learn from history. “Countries must live in peace because otherwise people suffer. The agreement is encouragement for improving the relations and life of the citizens,” he said.
“We are building friendship between the two countries, we will be partners and allies, building prosperity through stronger cooperation,” he said, “we have seen that no country benefits from isolation.”
At another point, he noted that the citizens of both countries desired democracy and that the European outlook was that of democratic expression. Greeks, “Macedonians” and Europeans are stronger against xenophobia, while those opposed to the agreement have every right to express their objections within a democratic framework, he noted.
“We have decided to take a step forward and look to the future. We are proud of this agreement that unites us, today and forever,” FYROM’s premier said.
UN mediator Matthew Nimetz congratulated the two leaders, adding that the agreement was an honorable deal. It was, he said, an example of “how neighbors can solve a problem if they really work at it.”
“Today is my birthday,” said Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday. “I told my family this year I don’t need any gifts because two prime ministers are going to give me a big gift.”
“It is a very good day for both countries, it is a very good day for the EU, for Europe and of course for the Balkans,” stated Vice President of the European Commission and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini on Sunday from Otesevo, after the signing of the agreement between Greece and FYROM.
“I remember very well the first steps of these negotiations between the two countires’ foreign ministers and I would like to congratulate them for their excellent work. Many people were against the possibility of a mutually accepted agreement but we finally succeeded due to the courage, devotion, commitment, leadership and hope expressed by the prime ministers and the foreign ministers throughout the procedure,” said Mogherini.
“The EU and the two of us (herself and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn) were companions in this efforts and we are here, first of all to thank both sides because they made us proud as European through their ability via diplomacy and dialogue to find a mutually accepted solution for both sides, a solution to a standing problem for many decades, which was also a thorn for the Balkan peninsula”.
“It was a long journey, speaking metaphorically, to reach this point and, as the representative of European diplomacy said, it is a historic moment. The citizens of the future will recognise that it was a historic moment, so that this country (FYROM) will have a prospect in NATO and the rest of the institutions. I believe that Europe will give a positive answer to the country’s (FYROM) European prospect and of course we must make the next steps forward,” European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn stated on Sunday in Otesevo, after the signing of an agreement between Greece and FYROM on the name issue.
“We are talking about of a journey at the same time as a new journey begins that leads to European integration,” he stated.
Asked about the reaction of the opposition parties, he expressed the view that “I believe that at the end of the day they will all see, after they have studied the agreement, that is a very good document, a good compromise, and a compromise is an agreement in which all parts have to give something in order to get something. It is an added value for both sides,” he said.
“We are here, in a fantastic landscape and we discussed with the two prime minister and the two foreign ministers that many things can be done at the level of development of this part of the western Balkans, in terms of tourism and other sectors. We must not forget that Albania has borders in the Prespes Lakes, so this agreement can contribute greatly to the local residents’ prosperity,” concluded Hahn.
Meanwhile, violence erupted Sunday when protesters demonstrating against the deal in the nearby village of Pisoderi tried to break through a police cordon and reach the lakeside village of Psarades where the ceremony was taking place.
Police fired teargas to disperse the demonstrators. Organizers came with 80 buses from Thessaloniki and other cities of northern Greece. The protest was much smaller than they expected.