The government is hoping to resurrect hopes for a FYROM naming settlement in a new round of talks between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, scheduled for 12 April, just four days after Greek Easter.
The government is hoping that enough progress can be achieved in order to allow it to table a settlement agreement in parliament in the foreseeable future.
Some believe that this objective aims to cause intra-party problems in main opposition New Democracy, which for a decade had supported a composite name including the word Macedonia, but now has watered down that position after the huge demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki opposing any use of the name Macedonia by Skopje.
However, there is also the prospect that some SYRIZA MPs (particularly those representing districts in northern Greece) may object to a compromise solution.
Moreover, the ruling party’s junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks party, is expected to leave the government if it tables a composite name as part of a settlement.
Closing regional foreign policy fronts
From the point of view of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, settling an important regional foreign policy front will allow the government to focus on the more urgent and complex matter of Greek-Turkish relations, without being distracted and expending more diplomatic capital on the FYROM issue.
At the same time, there are also obstacles for the FYROM government in accepting a compromise settlement that will satisfy both sides.
There, the most intractable issue is the Greek demand – which Athens has declared is a necessary condition for reaching a solution – that FYROM’s parliament revise the country’s Constitution to include the new name and remove irredentist references that pertain to Greece.
FYROM’s government is expected to call in all opposition party leaders next week to discuss the latest developments and to try to forge a national consensus on the parameters of a settlement. Strong reactions are expected from the more extreme elements, which could undermine the prospects for a solution.
Dimitrov briefs his PM
Dimitrov has fully briefed FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on the progress in the latest talks in Vienna, in the presence of UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
Zaev reportedly has expressed the view that recent progress is cause for optimism, at least as regards a compromise on FYROM’s new, composite name.
“I have been apprised of all developments, and I am in the pleasant position to confirm that there have been positive developments in the talks. Certainly, it is just one step. The ‘conditional’ progress in the talks means that on those issues on which there have been positive steps, there will be agreement once we have reached agreement on all the [other] issues,” Zaev was quoted by the Athens News Agency as saying.
The constitutional revision and FYROM’s insistence that Greece recognise the existence of a Macedonian ethnicity and language are the key, intractable issues that remain to be resolved.