Macedonia Hopeful Greece Will Ratify Deal Despite Turmoil

Macedonia remains optimistic that recent political turbulence in Greece sparked by a minister's resignation will not hold up approval of the historic 'name' agreement in parliament in Athens.
Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov. Photo: BIRN

Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said it has received “assurance” from Greece that the government of Alexis Tsipras, which faces a confidence vote this week, will push through ratification of the historic “name” agreement in parliament.

After the nationalist Independent Greeks party left the Greek coalition government this weekend in protest over the deal, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov had a conversation with acting Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougkalos, Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Dimitrov got assurances that the Greek government remains strongly committed to finishing the work regarding the Prespa [name] agreement,” it said.

On Sunday, Tsipras also said his government would not give up on ratifying the agreement reached this summer, just as the neighbouring government of Maceodnia did not give up and succeeded in pushing through key votes last Friday.

Tsipras said he would call a confidence vote in his government this week, presumably on Wednesday, after Defence Minister Panos Kammenos announced on Sunday that he was quitting the government due to his objections to the name deal.

However, the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini on Sunday wrote that the turmoil is unlikely to bring down the government led by Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party and stop ratification of the deal.

The newspaper wrote that, under a prearranged deal between Tsipras and Kammenos, the government would survive and have enough votes to pass the deal in parliament while at the same time Kammenos, who has been a bitter opponent to the agreement, can focus on improving his position ahead of parliamentary elections set for spring.

The newspaper noted that Syriza itself has 145 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, and can count on the positive votes of a number of other deputies. “They add up to the 151 needed for a simple majority in the 300-member parliament,” the newspaper said. According to the newspaper, a similar majority will support the name deal as well.

Macedonia’s parliament last Friday passed the final phase of votes on the adoption of a new name, Republic of North Macedonia – after which Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called on the Greek side to ratify the deal and finish the process.

If things go as planned, Greece should do this by the end of this month or in early February, after which it should also be the first country to approve Macedonia’s accession to NATO under its new name.

Greecd has long contested Macedonia’s name, considering the word Macedonia part of Hellenic heritage. However, the Tsipras government, much to the anger of Greek nationalists, has accepted a compromise name with a geographical qualifier. The EU and US have urged the two sides to reach an agreement and so conclude one of the more arcane and intractable disputes in the Balkans.

Read more:

Macedonia MPs Pass Amendments to Change Country’s Name

Greek Opposition Suspects MPs Will Back ‘Name’ Deal

Uncertainty Hangs Over Macedonia’s Final ‘Name’ Vote

Macedonian, Greek PMs to be Nominated for Nobel Prize