The moment of truth is approaching in the FYROM settlement talks, as by all accounts PM Zoran Zaev is expected to either say yes to the agreed upon framework solution or reject it, bringing a new crisis in bilateral relations.
Zaev has committed himself to telling UN mediator Matthew Nimetz today whether he accepts the verbal agreement between his foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, which was concluded in New York and Brussels.
With the likeliest name being Northern (Severna) Macedonia, and conditions including a constitutional amendment in a set timeframe establishing domestic use of the new name, Zaev must decide whether he is prepared to seal the deal.
If the answer is yes, then the two prime ministers, Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, are expected to sign the agreement at Prespes by Sunday.
The agreement itself would open the way for FYROM to receive an invitation to join Nato, at the Alliance’s July summit.
The text of the agreement has already been drafted by Nimetz. It is 20 pages long and describes analytically the steps that must be taken by the parties.
The procedure will take months, and the most crucial junctures will be the referendum that Zaev plans to hold in the autumn, asking whether voters approve the agreement, and the ratification of the agreement by the Greek parliament.
If Zaev and Tsipras reach agreement and arrange a meeting, then Tsipras will contact President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and most likely party leaders, to brief them on the content of the agreement.
The ball is now in Skopje’s court, as the agreement provides that FYROM take specific steps (constitutional revision, domestic use of new name, etc.) within a set time-frame, and if those commitments are not met then the entire agreement becomes null and void.
The endgame in the talks is taking place amidst recriminations in Greece between the government and the opposition (which most recently objected to recognition of a Macedonian language), and with protests having been held yesterday around northern Greece. There were also protests in FYROM.
Some express concerns that the agreement does not enjoy broad popular support in either country, and that that disaffection could trigger serious political developments.