by Aggelos Skordas
A mini cabinet meeting, converted by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, was held in Maximos Mansion on Thursday in order to discuss the country’s position in regards to the longstanding ‘Macedonian’ naming dispute, as 2018 is presented both in Athens and Skopje as a milestone year for its solution. The ministerial meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), who -despite the courtesies- appeared before the press separately and presented different positions, a fact that could be translated as yet another rift within the coalition government.
Exiting Maximos Mansion, Kammenos expressed his “complete confidence” in Greece’s Foreign Minister and referred to two “landmark decisions” regarding the dispute with FYROM: One taken by the political leaders’ council under late President Konstantinos Karamanlis in 1992, when the issue first emerged, and one taken during a NATO summit in Bucharest on 2008 when Greece vetoed FYROM’s accession until the dispute is resolved. Both decisions were taken on the grounds that the Greek term “Macedonia” cannot be included in the neighbouring country’s name. At the same time, he expressed his optimism that any solution found should “safeguard national interests and is acceptable to all political forces”.
In a blatantly different tone Kotzias said the Greek government continues to work towards the solution of a single compound erga omnes (of all uses) name, which Greece had also proposed at Bucharest. He added that the government was in favour of consulting with all the parties and political forces in the country on this issue, as well as every citizen seeking a solution to the problems of the country. Furthermore, he declared self “optimistic” towards a solution.
On Tuesday, FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who celebrated New Year’s Eve in Thessaloniki invited by the city’s Mayor Giannis Boutaris, also expressed his optimism that 2018 will mark the settlement of the naming dispute separating the two neighboring countries for almost 30 years: “For our part, we are ready for a substantial and true engagement into resolving the name issue in the first six months of this year. I am convinced that it is possible to find a solution, but of course it is also necessary to encounter readiness from the other side”, he characteristically said.