The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) surpassed yet another hurdle on its way to ratify the Prespes Agreement on Sunday.
The country voted in Parliament for a second reading of the four amendments in its constitution, which would make the way for the final vote with 67 MPs throwing their support behind it.
However before the vote took place, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev may have unwittingly raised tensions between FYROM and Greece in his attempt to gain the support of more MPs, and more specifically those of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party. He provocatively stated that after the ratification of the Agreement, it would offer “Macedonians” living in Greece the chance to learn their “Macedonian language” across Greek public schools.
Following the statement, Greek officials reacted promptly with President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos issuing a warning.
“We will under no circumstances accept arbitrary interpretations, and especially irredentist ones, of the Prespes Agreement on the part of FYROM,” Mr Pavlopoulos said.
Meanwhile leader of Greek opposition party New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is against the ratification of the Agreement, said Zaev’s comments were “unacceptable” and that if the Agreement were to recognise “the so-called Macedonian language and ethnicity” that it would open “Pandora’s box and revives all the scandalous claims of Skopje”.
In an attempt to ease tensions, FYROM has since come out claiming the PM’s remarks were misinterpreted.
“All our actions and statements are made in good faith to support the Agreement,” FYROM government spokesman Mile Bosnjakovski said.
In a statement, FYROM went on to claim that it has no intention of getting involved in the foreign affairs of another nation.
“We are strongly committed to the full implementation of the Prespes Agreement, and all of our action and statements are made in good faith to support it,” the statement reads.
“As a country that aspires to join the EU, we understand that countries take care of their own citizens and countries in the Balkans do not interfere in neighbouring countries on any given issue.”
Following this hurdle, should the vote come to pass and FYROM be renamed North Macedonia, Greece will finally lift its veto on FYROM becoming a member of the EU and NATO.
The final vote regarding the name change is scheduled to take place near the end of December.