by Aggelos Skordas
Greek government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos appeared optimistic regarding the settlement of the longstanding naming dispute with FYROM, although he refused to be engaged in “speculation” over the neighbouring country’s name. Addressing the press on Tuesday, he dismissed media reports from FYROM according to which Athens and Skopje have already concluded to a solution, under the name “Republic of New Macedonia”, adding that he is not willing to enter a “nomenclature” discussion.
“We will intensify the negotiations in the coming days. A window of opportunity has been presented. What matters to the government is not an uncanny nomenclature but, over the coming months, to reach a solution to this problem that has plagued Greece for 25 years”, he said adding that Greece’s SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government has called opposition parties to present their positions clearly. “As long as we have progress in the negotiations, if there are any positive steps, obviously the political leaders will be briefed accordingly”, Tzanakopoulos explained.
Referring to the main opposition party of New Democracy he said that, unlike what previous leaders did, the current government of Alexis Tsipras is “adopting a daring and courageous stance” in resolving the issue. The main point he concluded is “to resolve issues that create difficulties with neighbors, so that we may move to a new phase of co-development in the Balkans”.
In a similar tone, FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European Affairs, Bujar Osmani, exiting a meeting with Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos held in the Greek Foreign Ministry headquarters in downtown Athens, reiterated his government’s firm position that its commitment is to reach a solution over the Macedonian naming dispute in the first six months of 2018. “2018 is the golden year of opportunity for my country to make progress in terms of Euro-atlantic integration. That is why we are committed to finding a solution”, he characteristically said, pointing out that the Greek side is also demonstrating similar “sincerity and commitment”.
The discussion between the two focused on economic cooperation between the two countries and the prospect of setting up joint working groups for the exchange of knowhow. Moreover, an economic forum with the participation of Greek and FYROM entrepreneurs will take place in Athens in the near future.
It should be noted that on a Monday night interview with ANT1 TV Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias confirmed that the government is planning to propose a composite erga omnes (for all uses) name for FYROM during the next round of negotiations. Kotzias clarified that the composite name will differentiate it from Greek Macedonia with geographic qualifiers.