In another disgraceful yet wholly unsurprising statement by the Alexis Tsipras, who along with the rest of his government seems hell-bent on selling off any remaining vestige of Greece’s historical, cultural, and physical assets, the prime minister looks like he tipped his hand, expressing his support for the “Gorna Makedonija” name for Greece’s northern neighbor.
At a press conference in Brussels, Tsipras, sporting his usual smirk, responded to a question posed by a journalist from FYROM by stating:
“I hope that in a few months you will be introducing yourself as a representative of Gorna Makedonija. It is valuable for everyone to see this, because there are some who think that we are going to give away a name that has already been in use [by Greece’s northern neighbor] for 25 years, if not since World War II. Or [if not Gorna Makedonija] then any other name we agree upon. I’m not favoring Gorna. The foreign ministers might agree to something else.”
Video of Tsipras’ statement:
Despite Tsipras’ weak attempt at spin towards the end of his statement, the damage may already be done. We now have the “Greek” prime minister publicly proclaiming his hope that, in a few months’ time, he will be addressing a journalist from Greece’s northern neighbor as a representative of “Gorna Makedonija,” or some similar name.
This also comes after several weeks of “patriotic” statements and hot air on the part of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government towards both FYROM and Turkey, in a flimsy attempt to salvage their battered image following their denouncements of those participating in the massive Macedonia rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki as “fascists.”
Tsipras’ shocking statement comes in the wake of the recent visit of foreign minister Nikos Kotzias to Skopje for meetings with FYROM’s prime minister Zoran Zaev and foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov. This visit was touted as being both historic and symbolic, as Kotzias arrived in Skopje on the first non-stop flight between the two countries in 12 years.
Kotzias, following his return to Athens, stated that “the odds of reaching a solution increased, even if just a little.” What is clear though is that, on FYROM’s end, Greece’s concessions are not enough, as FYROM is pressing for the right to use a translated version of the “Gorna Makedonija” name (read: “Macedonia”) internationally, and continues to balk at constitutional changes that would eliminate any expansionist claims towards the “Macedonian peoples” in Greece and elsewhere.
In other words, it would be quite ironic if these negotiations result in a situation where no deal is ultimately reached — despite Greece giving up the name Macedonia. This situation is reminiscent of talks in early 2017 in Geneva between Cyprus and Turkey, where Cypriot president Nikos Anastasiades was willing to give up the farm to Turkey, essentially agreeing to a replication of the “Annan Plan” which would, among other things, keep Turkish troops on Cypriot soil. Nevertheless, Turkey’s megalomaniac president Tayyip Erdoğan demanded still more — and ultimately, talks fell through.
At the time, we were told that this was the best and only chance for the Cypriot issue to be solved. Today, and for the past several weeks, we have been similarly told that it is crunch time for the Macedonia name dispute, and that it must be solved now. And what we may now be seeing is the possibility that no deal will be reached, despite the apparent best efforts of Tsipras, Kotzias and company to give away everything and the kitchen sink to FYROM.
Indeed, it may be the case that the true endgame for the United States, NATO, and the European Union, and perhaps Russia and China as well, is not to attain a resolution to the naming dispute and to bring FYROM into NATO and the EU, but to break apart the country. Such a possibility is examined further in this analysis.
Nevertheless, it is also notable that during his Skopje visit, Kotzias also met with representatives of the “center-right” and ultra-nationalist VMRO party, which has maintained a particularly hard line stance via its insistence on not only maintaining the “Macedonia” name for international use, but which, while in government, filled the country with “monuments” of Alexander the Great and other aspects of “Macedonian” history.
As Tsipras and Kotzias are doing their best to give away the “Macedonia” name, a recent poll conducted by MRB on behalf of the “DiaNEOsis” think tank finds that 65.9 percent of Greeks polled oppose any name, including a composite name, which contains “Macedonia,” while only 27.7 percent were in favor. Of course, the credibility of this poll, as with most other public opinion surveys in Greece, is debatable: the same poll found vast increases in support of Greece’s EU and Eurozone membership compared to last year, seemingly propping up the pro-EU politics of the “radical leftist” SYRIZA-led government. It is an open secret that public opinion surveys in Greece are another means of propaganda and manipulation — rather than measurement — of public opinion.
What this means with regard to the Macedonia issue is that the true percentage of those opposing a compromise may be larger than the 65.9 percent measured in the survey. Nevertheless, it is an undeniable and unavoidable fact, even for the pollsters, that the overwhelming majority of the Greek populace does not wish to give away the “Macedonia” name, even as part of a composite name or some other similar diplomatic concoction, such as “Gorna Makedonija.”
Kotzias’ visit to Skopje will be followed up by meetings with FYROM officials and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz — who has been publicly AWOL in recent weeks — in Zurich on March 30.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.