The weekend finally arrived when the majority of North Macedonia’s citizens will be able to visit the nearest sea, and why not – have a swim in the Aegean. Greece opens its borders to avoid losing yet another tourist season. Of course, in accordance with all COVID-19 restrictions. As it usually happens, some have started celebrating too soon, so in the moments while I’m writing this article, these people are still stuck at the border crossing [Bogorodica-Evzoni], since there is still no formal decision to open this border crossing.
Still, warmer political winds seem to have started blowing from the south. Maybe many people will find it a surprise. No wonder, since Greece hasn’t been very loud, especially regarding the dispute between our country and Bulgaria. Now Greece is becoming louder and more clear.
The participation of the high-level Macedonian delegation at the Delphi Economic Forum in Athens, the debate during the Forum and the meetings with the Greek official representatives seemed to have pulled to the surface another kind of approach. This refers to the issue of organizing the first intergovernmental conference both with North Macedonia and Albania. Greece is now louder in its advocation for the start of the negotiations by stating that North Macedonia and Albania should all go in a package due to security reasons.
The latest political dialogues between Skopje and Athens had another meaning – the reaffirmation of the Prespa Agreement which is obviously under attack, certainly on its home turf. But the reaffirmation of the Prespa Agreement should be seen from another angle. It is under attack from outside – from the East, because the Bulgarian demands are delegitimising some of the key articles of this Agreement. One of the articles refers to the Macedonian language, but also the use of the short and the long abbreviation of the country’s new name “Republic of North Macedonia” i.e. “North Macedonia.” If these, for us key articles, in this agreement are relativised then the ongoing implementation of the Agreement may be called into question. But, even outside of the context of reading the formal side of the agreement, the Bulgarian blockade is a stab in the back to the Prespa Agreement. Even the advocates of conspiracy theories interpreted it as a joint Greek-Bulgarian anti-Macedonian strategy.
The latest statements from the bilateral Macedonian-Greek meetings are confirming that both governments – Macedonian and Greek – are now directed not toward relativisation but toward implementation of the Prespa Agreement, even though the political party that is now at the helm of the Greek government was opposing the agreement in the vote process. On the other hand, the dynamics of the implementation of the Agreement is tied to the opening of the negotiations i.e. the chapters. The deadline for changing the country’s name in all documents for internal use is set to 5 years from the moment of the opening of a given chapter. This makes the Greek side interested in starting the negotiations with our country. We should be expecting that once the negotiations start, the Greek side will decidedly be insisting that every detail in the Agreement be implemented.
Finally, we shouldn’t forget that the interests are those that propel foreign policies (or should be propelling). It is not a coincidence that the defense, economy, and energy sectors are now the focus of bilateral cooperation.
Apart from the support arriving these days for the start of our country’s negotiations start with the EU, certain creative ideas on part of the Greek side for overcoming the Bulgarian blockade were hinted, since the blockade uses as its model the Greek 30-year veto over Macedonia on its road toward independence and EU accession. Probably Greece will have something to state further down the road, because it is still a member of the EU in this region with the longest experience – this year marks Greece’s 40th anniversary since its EU accession (at the time it was called European communities). The experience is teaching us to be open, but also to be cautious toward any new ideas.
Malinka Ristevska – Jordanova for Portalb.mk