by Aggelos Skordas
FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov expressed his government’s optimism and determination to win the 30 September referendum, through which the people of the ex Yugoslav republic are called to validate the so-called Prespes Agreement reached between Athens and Skopje over the later’s name. Addressing the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on Wednesday, Dimitrov characterized the agreement as a “historic opportunity to close a difficult issue and open a door to the future”.
Regarding the upcoming referendum, Dimitrov stressed that this is not a question of political parties, Left or Right, but about the future of his own country and about “building friendly relations” in a region that needs it. As he explained, his government is briefing the citizens on the referendum in order to freely take an important decision on their country’s future.
Dimitrov said FYROM is building a bridge of friendship with Greece in order to “unlock” the accession talks with NATO. “We and our friends the Greeks will be better if we achieve that”, he said, noting that in his country some consider him a “hero” and others a “traitor”.
“If I could write the deal myself, it would have been better for my country and if [Greece’s Foreign Minister] Nikos Kotzias could write it on his own it would be better for his country”, he said, stressing that there were many compromises had to be made. Moreover, he added that if the agreement is implemented, the benefits for both countries will be considered in the long run.
“In the future, we will wonder why the agreement was not reached in the early 1990s”, Dimitrov characteristically highlighted adding that “we lost a generation, we could have been friends since then”.
“I am a Macedonian”
In reply to New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefaloyiannis who stressed that “Macedonian identity and Macedonian language cannot be accepted by Greece” and asked how his fellow countrymen would be called after the Prespes Agreement is implemented, Dimitrov replied “I am a Macedonian”: “When the agreement comes into force, my country will be called Republic of North Macedonia and we will be Macedonians who speak the Macedonian language.”
However, he stressed that the term “Macedonian” has different meanings in Greece and FYROM and that there are also Macedonians in Greece. He added that there is a distinction between the country and the Greek region of Macedonia and that this distinction is erga omnes (towards all).
The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs is responsible for the promotion, implementation and monitoring of the European Union’s foreign and security policy.
On Tuesday, Dimitrov also held a meeting with NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller. After thanking Gottemoeller for NATO’s invitation to start talks on joining the Alliance, Dimitrov said that “‘Macedonia’ paved its way to NATO 25 years ago and we are firmly heading towards it. We will complete this historic mission in the interest of our prosperity and stability and reinforce stability in the Balkans and Europe”.