The Foreign Ministers of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) reached an agreement on Monday, culminating the main round of negotiations that might put an end to the decades-long dispute between the two countries on the latter’s name, with the final stage of talks to be led by the countries’ prime ministers, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev.
“We two Foreign Ministers have completed the task given to us by our respective PMs,” Nikos Kotzias said to the press after a meeting he had with his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov in Brussels on the sidelines of a European Union meeting. “Today and possibly tomorrow, we will continue negotiations to resolve technnical and legal issues that need to be clarified. After that, the documents that have been drafted at a ministerial level will be delivered to the two prime ministers who will discuss between themselves and reach a final deal.”
Tsipras and Zaev are to have a telephone discussion on Thursday, which will be crucial to the possibility of solution to be found by a June 28 EU summit meeting, which would see Zaev invited to begin talks for FYROM to enter the EU, under its new name. Another invitation awaits the FYROM PM for 11 and 12 July, when his country will participate in the NATO summit meeting.
The EU’s Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, expressed her satisfaction for the progress made by Kotzias and Dimitrov, while a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry urged Athens to take advantage of a “historic opportunity” for an agreement that will have a “positive effect on bilateral relations as well as on regional stability.”
All this depends on the outcome of Tsipras and Zaev’s scheduled telephone discussion on Thursday, which will probably result to a new meeting between them to take place within the next ten days in Prespes, near the two countries’ borders.
Although the name that the two Foreign Minister’s have agreed upon has not been disclosed, it is rumored to be ‘Republika Severna Makedonija’ (Republic of North Macedonia). This marks a compromise for both countries; Greece has reportedly campaigned for ‘Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), while FYROM had insisted on ‘Nova Makedonija’. Both names remain on the table, according to various sources, while many other issues remain to be resolved; it is rumored that Greece has agreed to the country using the abbreviation MK internationally, and also on its language being called ‘Macedonian’.
The more important is whether FYROM will agree to the new name being used ‘erga omnes’ – i.e. both within the country and in its international relations – but also to change parts of its constitution, something that Greece has set as a prerequisite. Dimitrov said that this is not a decision for him to make, so the matter will be resolved between Tsipras and Zaev, during the final part of the negotiations in Prespes.
If this happens, then Greece will send letters to NATO and the EU, calling off the veto it has raised in both organisations regarding FYROM’s membership. In any case, the final agreement has to be ratified by the Greek parliament, but more importantly, it has to pass through a referendum in FYROM.