The rift between Zaev and Ivanov is evident as Kathimerini reveals excerpts from the minutes

Athens, 2 October, 2018 - 12:20 (META) 

The minutes that were seen by journalists of the Kathimerini newspaper from the leadership meetings in Macedonia regarding the negotiations with Greece before the name agreement was to be signed in June show that the political leaders have thought that the agreement would be easier for signing with the left-wing government in Greece, informs Meta’s correspondent from Athens.

The two councils on January 27 and May 19 in Skopje were both chaired by President Gjorge Ivanov, informs Kathimerini. The first meeting took place less than two weeks before negotiations began in earnest under the aegis of United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz while the second was convened while the name Macedonia of Ilinden was being floated.

According to the minutes of the meetings – small excerpts of which were published on May 19 by German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – most of the elements of the Prespa agreement had already been agreed upon, with the exception of the name.

The minutes also reveal that, in January, Macedonia was not discussing the Greek demand for a constitutional review while the use of the name – internally and internationally – was under discussion.

The minutes make plain that Greece had agreed to recognize a Macedonian identity early on and a Macedonian language shortly thereafter. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was also seen in January to be keen on rapidly wrapping up the deal so that he could head for elections after the summer with a name agreement under his belt along with Greece’s bailout exit.

By May, however, this narrative had subsided. With regard to New Democracy, the minutes of the January council showed that its response to an agreement could be positive. However, this had changed by May, when Macedonia’s leader said a deal would not be achievable with an ND government. Both councils showed a clear chasm between Zaev’s government and Ivanov. The meetings also showed that there was concern about the dangers of Russian interference aimed at no-name deal being struck with Greece.

Meanwhile, the government’s spokesperson, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, has greeted the high percentage of the turnout of those who have voted “For” at the referendum on Sunday, expressing a concern of the lower turnout.

Regardless of the objections from their coalition partner Panos Kamenos that the low turnout means that the referendum is “invalid” Tzanakopoulos that the outcome is “a positive development for the ratification and implementation of the Prespa Agreement” signed between Athens and Skopje in June.

The New Democracy said yesterday that the referendum results have proven that “the nationally damaging Prespa Agreement is literally hanging by a thread”. Spokesperson Marija Spyraki said that Greece “cannot be a hostage of the situation in our neighboring country”.

Tsipras will mark the end of the Greek economic Odyssey with TV address

Athens, 21 August, 2018 - 11:35 (META) 

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras will have a TV address to the nation today on the occassion of the end of the country’s financial crisis. Tsipras symbolically chose Ithaca island in the Ionian Sea, the home of Odysseus, which he struggles to find in his well known aruduous 10-year journey after the Trojan War.

With it Tsipras will mark the end of the third financial rescue programe for Greece, after 8 years of austerity measures.

In the meantime, reshuffle of the cabinet is expected by tomorrow, in order to calm down the criticism.

EU Economic and Financial Affairs commissioner Piere Moscovici insisted that reforms must be adhered and that the government should ensure in the post bail out era that commitments will be upheld.

European Commissioner President Jean Claude Junker said he always fought for Greece to remain at the heart of Europe.

All the Greek newspapers today annonce the TV address and point out that Tsipras shelved plans for grand fiestas and celebrations due to the 96 deaths in the Attica wildfire.

Heated diplomatic agenda for the Greek government at the end of summer

Athens, 20 August, 2018 - 11:03 (META) 

The unexpected development with the release of the two Greek  soldiers after five months’ imprisonment in Turkey, should not make the Greek government complacent, because the end of summer and the begining ofautumn bring a number of high profile foreign policy issues.

The most notorious is the referendum in the Republic of Macedonia on the Prespa Agreement.  Its outcome will lead to political developments in Greece, as Panos Kammenos, the leader of the Independent Greeks political party, which is a coalition partner with SYRIZA, has said that he will not support the Prespes Agreement when it will be ratified in the Greek parliament .

The detention of the two Greek soldiers touched the core of the Greek-Turkish relations, but Cyprus issue and the energy programme of Exxon Mobil in September will raise again the question whether there is a real will for a substantial improvement of the bilateral relations of Greece and Turkey. Athens also expects how the president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan will react when Exxon Mobil begins on September its drilling on Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone.

In this context, on September 11th United Nations envoy Jane Hall Lut will come to Athens and she will have a meeting with the Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on the Cyprus issue, at the commencement of the new phase of negotiations.

Greece to expel two Russian diplomats over attempts to undermine the name dispute Treaty

Athens, 11 July, 2018 - 11:57 (META) 

The Greek government has decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban the entry of two others, accusing them of attempting to interfere in Greece’s internal affairs, as well as undermining the Agreement regarding the name with Macedonia, reports the Greek daily “Kathimerini”.

Diplomats have been charged with attempts to obtain and distribute information, as well as the bribing of Greek officials. According to senior sources in Greek diplomatic circles, Athens urgently demanded that Viktor Yakovlev and another man from the embassy have to leave Greece.

There were allegedly a number of coordinated efforts to intensify Russian influence in Greece, among others, through the activities of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society. There was a clear signs that Russia had intentions to intervene regarding the sensitive issue of the Treaty between Greece and Macedonia and to negatively influence Greek policy in the Balkans.

Today Russian Foreign Ministry officials have stated they would respond in the appropriate manner regarding the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

According to the newspaper, they tried to influence some municipalities, some of the Metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church through bribery, as well as to gain greater influence on Mount Athos.

Shekerinska: We are getting an invitation for NATO the day after tomorrow, lets not miss this chance

Skopje, 9 July, 2018 - 15:36 (META) 

It is quite certain that on 11th of July, Macedonia will receive an invitation for accession talks for the NATO Summit, which is expected to be relatively short – three to six months – a procedure which is identical to the last countries which became NATO members, i.e. Montenegro, Albania and Croatia, and then the Accession Protocol has to be signed, after which its ratification will begin with all member states, and then, we will be “de facto” with NATO, because then we will participate in a big part of the NATO procedures. It remains only to complete the procedure in the country, with the referendum and the constitutional changes, in order to remove the last obstacles. For a long period of time the opposition has been stressing that the EU and NATO are the strategic commitments for Macedonia, and now, it is not serious by the opposition to block this road because of the small political points, said Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska and the national NATO co-ordinator Stevo Pendarovski at today’s briefing with journalists.

Emphasizing that it is a minor accession process and that a large part of the issues have already been completed, both Pendarovski and Shekerinska said the accession process would be identical as it is for Montenegro, Albania and Croatia, and that the main thing should take place in the country, i.e. to hold a referendum and to change the Constitution.

“Macedonia is at a new beginning. What we missed in 2008, we can now realize it with 10 years delay, and we know it costs us a lot. But now it is a new time when the state is no longer abducted, the period of stagnation has stopped, we have a chance to send a new message for stability, and also we could have economic benefits. In the meantime, we have noticed that there is no objection from Greece”, the Minister of Defense said.

When asked whether it was possible for France and the Netherlands to obstruct the process, as it was with the case regarding the invitation to negotiate with the EU, Shekerinska and Pendarovski explained there is no danger at all, referring to the meetings with NATO ministers and ambassadors.

According to Pendarovski, during his reports in Brussels, he received assurances from the ambassadors of both countries that there is no objection.

MANU: Proposals for the name are absurd, unsustainable, impossible and unfeasible

Skopje, 20 March, 2018 - 18:24 (META) 

The president of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU), Taki Fiti, in his opening of the academy’s annual assembly, appealed for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue and encouraged the authorities of Macedonia and Greece to take responsibility and bravely face the present realities.

He went on to say that a solution to a name for general use, is unfeasible and that identity must not be negotiated.

Defining the positions of MANU in his address, Fiti said that the dispute is in fact bilateral, not international, and that it is only negotiating the name, not issues of identity which open the door to the world of elementary human rights that are non negotiable. He also expressed concern against a name in the Macedonian language that will not be translated.

“The proposals for the name Republic of Macedonia, or the possibly of a name with a geographical title, to be pronounced as in the Macedonian language but to be written only in the Latin alphabet, that is, the name of the language, Macedonian, also written in Latin letter and pronounced as it is in our country, are absurd and unsustainable. Acceptance of an erga omnes solution, one name for all, meaning one name for both international and internal use, would mean change to the constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, change to the names of our institutions, cause a revision of all international agreements, bilateral and multilateral, where the constitutional name of the country is used, and so on. Accordingly, this solution is actually impossible and unfeasible”, said Fiti.

Dimitrov and Kotsias are having a meeting this evening in Vienna and tomorrow they will be having a joint meeting with Nimetz

Vienna, 12 February, 2018 - 20:10 (META) 

The Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov, will have a meeting this evening in Vienna with the Minister of Foreign Affairs if Greece, Nikos Kotsias, informs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Dimitrov and Kotsias will have a joint meeting with the UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz.

Dimitrov and Kotsias will meet again on the 15th and the 16th of February in Sofia at the informal meeting of the heads of the diplomacies of the EU’s countries and the countries candidates for a membership.

Lavrov: Russia will accept the name that Macedonia and Greece will agree upon

Moscow, 15 January, 2018 - 14:30 (META) 

Any kind of solution (for the name dispute) that will be agreed upon by Macedonia and Greece, and will be supported by the Macedonian Constitution, we (the Russian Federation), most probably are going to accept it, said the Head of the Russian diplomacy Sergey Lavrov, when he was answering a question posted by a Greek journalist at the annual press conference held by Russia’s minister of foreign affairs that is taking place today.

Lavrov stressed that the name dispute between Skopje and Athens has long been in a “snooze mode” and it enlivened after the USA decided Macedonia should join NATO.

The Head of the Russian diplomacy reminded that Greece is already a member of NATO and that it is not necessary that it should do appeasements, but that Macedonia should do that as it hopes to join NATO.

-Regarding the revitalization of the effort for solving the problem with Macedonia’s official name, these efforts were long in a hibernation and got intensified only then when USA decided that Macedonia should join NATO. The essence of what is happening is I hope clear to everyone, as it is not about taking into account the joint and specific characteristics of two nations that are close, but that one of these two countries is necessary to become a member of NATO – said Lavrov.

At the traditional press-conference, which lasts for several hours, Lavrov is making a survey of central subjects from the previous year including the new year and is answering questions by journalists for other subjects concerning the Russian foreign policy.

There will be news on the name dispute after the holidays, says Dimitrov

Skopje, 18 December, 2017 - 13:19 (META) 

The negotiations on the name dispute will continue after the New Year and Christmas holidays, and in the meantime no developments are expected, said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov at a joint press conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó.

“The next meeting has been arranged after the holidays in January, so there should be no special event during the holidays. The stage is set, the process has started, the dynamic has been established, but there is nothing new which will happen during the holidays”, said Dimitrov said at a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, who is currently visiting Macedonia.

Regarding the statement made by Bulgarian Vice President Iliana Iotova, that 70,000 Macedonians who received Bulgarian passports are Bulgarians, Dimitrov said she has not seen her, but said that this additionally points to the need for faster integration into the EU.

“The real solution how to handle our citizens applying for passports in other countries is for member states to increase the attractiveness of a Macedonian passport. A real long-term solution how to face this challenge, is making the passport of the Republic of Macedonia an EU member state. That is why it is very important that we do everything we can to use the opportunity that is being drawn slowly for 2018”, said Foreign Minister Dimitrov.

Dimitrov: We will enter negotiations with Greece with good faith and without fear

Skopje, 26 November, 2017 - 13:42 (META) 

We will enter negotiations with Greece with good faith and without fear, in an effort to overcome our differences, said Macedonian Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov in Sunday’s interview with “Radio Free Europe”.

“If there is a defeated side it will not be good for the winner or for the loser, because terrible nationalism will develop. We need to find a way where both sides can come out with the feeling that they have protected what is most important. We will not negotiate with fear and we can not come out of this with a solution that will not cover our main concerns”, said Dimitrov.

When asked how prepared is the government to go in the negotiations and whether there will be reciprocity in the eventual change of the names of the highways, monuments and textbook revision, the Macedonian Foreign Minister said that they did not discuss this issue in government.

“I think it is crucial to understand that patriotism means concern for the state and it is crucial that we take away the arguments of those political forces in Greece who have an interest in holding the blockade. Basically, in the statement by Kotzias, he had or at least implied that this would be a two-way process”, said Dimitrov.

Regarding the pace of the negotiations, the Foreign Minister said that this will depend on the assessment of mediator Matthew Nimetz and from the reports and upcoming EU and NATO summits, as well as from the election cycles in Macedonia and Greece.