Though some observers in Greece believed that the two massive rallies on the FYROM naming issue put a break on efforts for a solution, international pressure on both sides is mounting.

The latest pressures came from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received FYROM’s PM, Zoran Zaev, on 21 February, addressing him as prime minister of Macedonia and heaping praise in him.

«I am very pleased and relieved that the government of Zoran Zaev is once again getting things moving. The two sides are moving closer,» Merkel said, underlining that she had made it quite clear that the German government would like to see the problem resolved.

«In the last ten years we have never been so close to a solution as we are today,» said Angela Merkel. «It would be very nice if the remaining difficulties could be overcome. Every conflict in the region that is resolved is a good thing,” she said.

Zaev had previously visited Turkey for talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly aligned himself completely with Skopje.

Turkey has for years worked successfully to expand its influence in FYROM, and Zaev told a joint news conference with Merkel that aside from Ankara, Russian and China also have a keen interest the country, each for its own reasons.

Hence, Zaev’s glowing reception in Berlin was a clear signal to Moscow, Ankara and Beijing that Germany wants Skopje firmly and primarily anchored in the EU, under its wing.

European Commission pressures

European Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn was also seen as piling on the pressure, as he announced that the Commission will recommend, quite possibly by summer, the commencement of EU accession talks with both FYROM and Albania.

At the same time, Zaev’s communications charm offensive includes strong praise for his Greek counterpart’s determination to reach a settlement, and making good on his promise to remove the name Alexander the Great from Skopje’s airport and a main highway. This, he claims, is proof that FYROM has no irredentist agenda.

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