As Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), get ready for the defining moment for their strained relationship, Zoran Zaev expressed his country’s commitment to join NATO and the European Union.
“Macedonia [sic] has no alternative to NATO and the EU,” he said on Wednesday at an event organized by the European Commission and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Sofia, where the EU-Western Balkans summit is held.
The PM of FYROM is meeting his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras today, in what is believed to be the turning point to the ongoing dispute between the two countries, regarding the use of the term ‘Macedonia’ in the former’s name. Zaev’s comment is of great significance, given that his country’s efforts to become a member-state of the EU and NATO has been continuously vetoed by Greece, on grounds of the implication that FYROM has territorial claims over the northern Greek region of Macedonia.
By stating his country’s commitment to membership in both international organisations, Zaev implied that he is willing to make concessions to bend Greece’s hard stance.
Greece insists on a name to be used ‘ergo omnes’, that is both within FYROM and internationally, but also on more changes to the country’s constitution to further eliminate any irredentist features. Athens has reportedly prepared a package of its own concessions that will also aim to maintain the distinct identity of FYROM’s residents.
According to several sources, the EU is playing an active role to find a solution to the decades-long dispute, inclidung acting as a guarantor in an international treaty between the two countries.
Both parties have expressed optimism that a deal is under way, which will quite possibly include the name Macedonia with a geographical term. Even if a deal is reached, both leaders will need to deal with opposition in their countries, particularly from nationalist groups and political parties. Zoran Zaev stressed in his statement than any failure for FYROM to join NATO and the EU will reignite tension and empower his countries nationalistic elements.As for Alexis Tsipras, he addressed the issue with a Twitter post, stating that the last measures to be agreed in a deal are “always the most difficult.”