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North Macedonian name deal hits hurdles right out of the gate

June 13, 2018 5:05 PM
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The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s deal with Greece to end their decades-long name dispute hit its first hurdles a day after its unveiling as detractors in both countries mounted opposition to the accord.

By agreeing to call the Balkan state of 2 million people “the Republic of North Macedonia”, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras are seeking to unlock that country’s accession process to both the European Union and NATO. But they must find support at home in political environments that underscore a path fraught with obstacles.

Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov, who has veto power over legislation, cut short a meeting with Zaev and refused to listen to his arguments in support of an agreement, according to the prime minister’s office. Ivanov said he would address the nation later Wednesday, and he and the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, which backs him, vowed to oppose any changes to the country’s constitution.

VMRO-DPMNE “will fight this agreement of capitulation with all democratic and legal means,” party leader Hristijan Mickoski said.

In Greece, the main opposition New Democracy party demands that Tsipras get a mandate from parliament before he signs the agreement, complicating plans for him and Zaev to do that as early as this weekend. If he doesn’t, New Democracy is considering launching a no-confidence motion against him, according to two party officials, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

Party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to force Tsipras to submit the agreement to the assembly, saying he “will exhaust all available means” to bring it up for debate.

The talks have also sparked a confrontation between Tsipras and his main coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, whose leader and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos reiterated on Tuesday his party won’t back any agreement that includes the term “Macedonia.”

Tsipras, whose coalition controls a majority in the assembly, said the agreement would allow the Republic of Macedonia to get a green light to start EU accession talks at a summit later this month and an invitation to join NATO at a gathering of its members in July.


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