Greek diplomatic authorities and Greek Australian politicians are on alert for the impending visit of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, to Australia in late October.
Mr Gruevski is expected to sign a bilateral Social Security agreement, similar to the one already in effect since October 2008 between Greece and Australia.
Their concern is with the name with which the government of FYROM will be recognised in the agreement.
Although Australia officially recognises Greece’s neighbouring country with its United Nations (UN) sanctioned name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, it remains unclear at this point if this policy will change after Mr Gruevski’s visit.
Greece and FYROM are currently in negotiations under the auspices of the UN to resolve the long standing name dispute.
Greece is refusing to accept the name “Republic of Macedonia” which the neighbouring country has adopted in its constitution. A number of nations including the US recognise this constitutional name.
Unlike the US, however, Australia has remained vigilant on the naming issue adhering to Greek Australian sensitivities.
“I can’t imagine any Australian government committing such an act of political suicide risking a major fall out with the Greek Australian community,” a Greek Australian politician, who wished not to be named, stressed to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE).
“Especially, under the circumstances where the possibility of an early election is looming over the anticipated impasse with the government’s effort to pass its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme,” the politician clarified.
The bill was recently defeated in the Senate and the Rudd government has indicated its resolve to reintroduce the bill unchanged in November.
If a consensus is not reached by then, it could trigger a possible double dissolution of Parliament.
A Greek diplomat revealed to NKEE that the upcoming visit of Mr Gruevski has fuelled serious concerns.
“Mr Gruevski is known for his extreme and recalcitrant approach to the name dispute issue and this is why it’s hard to imagine that he would come all the way to Australia to sign an agreement under the name FYROM,” the Greek diplomat pointed out.
“This wouldn’t sit well with his electorate in FYROM which for a great part have been on his band wagon due to his nationalistic bravado on the name dispute,” the diplomat said.
NKEE contacted the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regarding Mr Gruevski’s trip to Australia given that the visit itself is not yet finalised.
A spokesperson for DFAT responded: “At this early stage, the Department has no information to offer regarding the visit.”
When asked to confirm whether Australia’s position in regards to the naming of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remains the same, the spokesperson noted that Australia is “using the nomenclature the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in accordance with the terminology used by the United Nations (UN)” pending, she added, the resolution of the issue.
Neos Kosmos English Edition contacted the Department for Families, Housing, Community Affairs and Indigenous Affairs which is the Government Ministry drafting the Social Security Agreement.
Initially, we were referred to DFAT for comment on the issue.
When pressed to answer under which name will the signatory country be recognised i.e. FYROM or “Republic of Macedonia”, a spokesperson stated: “The details of an agreement are yet to be finalised.”
Another concern is that Mr Gruevski’s visit will coincide with the arrival of a new Greek Ambassador.
The existing Ambassador George Zois is retiring on September 6.
Diplomatic sources have expressed their concern that the new Ambassador “regardless of his diplomatic abilities, will not be in the same position to manage a potential crisis when and if it will break out.”
A possible solution could be to extend Mr Zois stay in Australia until the issue is put to rest but this will only be possible through a ministerial directive from Athens.
The leadership of the Greek Foreign Ministry at this point has not indicated either way what its intentions are