A report on the passing and implementation of the Greece-North Macedonia Prespa accord issued by George Soros’ Open Society European Policy Institute predicts a victory of New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis by 5-10 percentage points in the next Greek general election.
The report analyses in detail the tortuous road toward ratification of the Prespa Agreement and discusses the pitfalls and challenges of implementing it in the future.
It also concerns itself with Skopje’s EU course, and it calls for a roadmap for implementation and enforcement of the Prespa Accord in the longer term.
At the same time, it examines the possibilities of either single-party New Democracy rule or pairings of the large conservative party with a smaller party in a coalition. Here, the centre-left Movement for Change is viewed as the most likely junior partner.
Soros is an exceptionally controversial figure in Greece, where he is viewed by many as biased in favour of Skopje due to broader geopolitical designs for the region.
All bets on Mitsotakis
The report – entitled “North Macedonia: What next?” – predicts a comfortable or landslide victory of New Democracy over SYRIZA by a margin of five to ten percentage points. It also considers that SYRIZA will be a strong opposition party, thus ensuring two-party predominance in the Greek political system, along with the annihilation of some current parliamentary parties.
“The elections in Greece are likely to be held before, or alongside, the European elections in May 2019. It is certain that New Democracy will do best; its lead over the second party could be anything between 5 and 10 percentage points. Most observers and opinion polls agree that SYRIZA will be a strong second party, and this will ensure that the two main poles of the political system will continue to dominate Greek politics. This is significant because it influences post-election alliances and will shape the politics of Greece while the Prespa Agreement is implemented. Furthermore, Golden Dawn, Movement for Change, and the Communist Party are expected to join the parliament, each with between 6 and 8 percent of the vote. Various small parties represented in the current parliament, including Independent Greeks, are not expected to keep their seats,” the report states.
Pro-Russia small parties
The report also examines the prospect that the far-right pro-Russian party led by Kyriakos Velopoulos could enter Parliament, thus taking votes away for New Democracy. Velopoulos has in the past served as an MP of the ultra-right populist LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally). He currently hosts television shows in which he extols the geopolitical prowess of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The report opines that a grouping of three small pro-Russia parties might be able to pass the three percent threshold to enter parliament.
«Interestingly, one new entrant to parliament may be a new party of the far right. According to polls, there are two-three smaller far right (and to a different degree, pro-Russian) parties that poll under the threshold of 3 percent. If these parties manage to agree on a coalition before the elections, they will probably easily gain seats. It is also possible that one of them—‘Greek Solution’, led by the fierce nationalist and former MP Konstantinos Velopoulos, who has connections to Russia—will be able to pick up seats by itself. In either of these scenarios, ND will lose seats. Moreover, given than these parties focus heavily on the Macedonian issue and have strengthened because of the settlement of the dispute with Skopje, they are likely to influence public debate if they enter parliament, and shape Greek policy if they enter government.»
Using Skopje’s EU candidacy
The report espouses the view of New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis that Skopje’s EU candidacy can be used to ensure proper implementation of the Prespa Accord, which would thus be a criterion for the progress of accession talks.
“The Greek government, like every other EU member state, will have to give the green light for every negotiating chapter of the EU accession negotiations. Under the current legislative framework, Athens can be the sole blocker of the process, since it requires the unanimity of all EU member states. A future Greek government could register its opposition to the deal on the name issue. For example, it could raise issues related to the implementation of the Prespa Agreement and the honouring of the letter and the spirit of the text. Future Greek governments will be very attentive to the terms used in North Macedonia, whether in domestic or international use, and will certainly flag the use of terms considered by Greece as inappropriate. Different interpretations of the Prespa Agreement provisions are also likely. The Greek side could try to impose its own interpretation on all these contested issues, and may use its blocking power in the EU accession process to that effect. A possible change of government in North Macedonia and the return of the nationalist VRMO-DPMNE to power may further complicate the process.”
EU Prespa Agreement roadmap
The report proposes that the EU in the context of Skopje’s accession process draft a roadmap for implementation of the Prespa Agreement to the benefit of both sides, thus directly internationalising the agreement.
“In order to prevent or manage future disputes over the Prespa Agreement, given that then EU membership process requires unanimity from member states, the EU itself should consider to – along with North Macedonia – adopt a roadmap on the implementation of the Agreement. The bilateral dispute between Skopje and Athens needs to be converted, as far as is realistically possible, into a multilateral issue within the European Union—thus making it more difficult for any individual member state to hijack the European Union’s enlargement policies. Treating it as a multilateral issue would also ensure that the agreement would be equitably implemented to the benefit of both sides to the (former) dispute.”