Thursday, 31 January 2019

Greece, North Macedonia have their work cut out for them

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

NATO and the European Union celebrated Greece’s ratification of the Prespes Agreement on January 25, whereby it recognizes its northern neighbour as North Macedonia.

But the agreement has yet to enter into force. “It has been adopted, but not implemented. It’s an interim period,” says Greek foreign ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas. “As soon as we ratify the NATO Induction Protocol, we shall inform Skopje and they will reply saying that “we are now called North Macedonia.”

This is to happen over the next ten days. Then North Macedonia’s induction will have to be ratified by the parliaments of all 29 NATO members. “Last time this took year,” says Gennimatas, referring to Montenegro’s induction in 2017.

In the weeks following, Greece is also expected to notify the EU that it supports accession talks with North Macedonia. The two countries will upgrade their liaison offices to full embassies.

Within five years, North Macedonia is to rename all its public bodies, adjust its internal official documents and replace all passports currently in circulation.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

What's next in the Greece-North Macedonia agreement

The Greek parliament on January 25 ratified the Prespes Agreement with 153 votes in the 300-seat chamber, whereby it recognises its northern neighbour as North Macedonia. 

Over the next two weeks: Once the Prespes Agreement is published in the Greek government gazette and NATO informed that it is law, NATO will invite member states to accept North Macedonia as a member. Once Greece ratifies the NATO Accession Protocol, North Macedonia will inform the United Nations and other international bodies that the Prespes Agreement is in force.

In the weeks following: Greece is also expected to notify the EU that it supports accession talks with North Macedonia. The two countries will upgrade their liaison offices to full embassies.

Within six months: North Macedonia will convene a committee to review its monuments and public buildings and how they "refer in any way to ancient Hellenic history and civilisation," and take appropriate "corrective action". (8.2).

Some substantive changes may take longer. Trade and education are the most prickly areas. The two countries have set up a joint committee of trade experts this year to discuss trademarks and brand names containing the term Macedonia or Macedonian. The committee must conclude an agreement within three years on mutually acceptable uses of such names. (1.3.h)

A Joint Inter-Disciplinary Committee of Experts on historic, archaeological and educational matters formed last year will revise school textbooks, maps and teaching guides to remove "irredentist /revisionist references" to ancient Macedonia or other Greek heritage, and in the process is redesign the next North Macedonian generation's identity. (8.5).

The two parties are also supposed to establish an Action Plan of cooperation on a range of issues like transport, civil protection, agriculture, energy, the environment, infrastructure, investments and defence. They are to establish a High Level Cooperation Council to oversee that plan. (14).

Within five years: North Macedonia is to rename all its public bodies, adjust its internal official documents and replace all  passports currently in circulation. (1.10)

Friday, 25 January 2019

Greek parliament set for historic Macedonia name vote

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

On Thursday night, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are scheduled to put to rest a 27-year dispute over the latter country’s name.

That’s when the Greek parliament is scheduled to ratify the Prespes Agreement, reached last June. FYROM agrees to abandon “Republic of Macedonia” - the name it chose for itself when it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 – and call itself North Macedonia. Greece agrees to lift its veto to North Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the European Union. A source of instability and ill feeling in southeast Europe is thus removed. There are economic dividends, too. North Macedonia’s premier, Zoran Zaev, reports an 18.7 percent uplift in mutual trade over the past ten months.

To the casual observer, an incomprehensible dispute has been resolved. Yet the compromise has brought political turmoil in both capitals. In Skopje, social-democrat Zaev was soundly beaten in a referendum on the deal; he ratified it in parliament by luring eight MPs from the nationalist VMRO party across the aisle.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Chronology of the Macedonian Issue

1805 – Serbian revolution against the Ottoman Empire

1821 – Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire

1830 – founding of the Greek state

1844 – Greece’s first prime minister, Ioannis Kolettis, first articulates the ideology of the Great Idea in Greek parliament.

28 Feb / 12 Mar 1870 – Under Russian pressure, Sultan Abdul Aziz grants Bulgaria suzerainty (exarchy) over a broad swathe of the Balkans stretching from Balkan Mts. to Danube, essentially what is today northern Bulgaria. This is an idea the Bulgarians had been working towards since 1856, and their efforts intensified after Nikolai Ignatieff was installed as Russian ambassador to the Porte in 1864. Majority Greek areas are excluded but article 10 allows them to join the exarchy if 2/3 of the population wish it. The patriarchate held a Holy and Great Synod in 1872 to condemn tribal nationalism (εθνοφυλετισμός) and the period marks the beginning of Greek-Bulgarian rivalry in the Balkans.

1875 – revolution in Bosnia-Herzegovina

1876 – Serbo-Ottoman war

April 1876 – Bulgarian revolution

Monday, 14 January 2019

Greek government splits over Macedonia

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

ATHENS, Greece - Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and his Independent Greeks party quit Greece’s ruling coalition on Sunday, potentially leaving it without a governing majority in parliament.

Kammenos disagrees with a deal struck with former Yugoslav Macedonia last June, which would rename that country North Macedonia. Many Greeks believe that any name containing the term Macedonia would imply territorial claims on Greece’s northern province of the same name, incorporated into the Greek state in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

“We cannot, for the sake of membership in the government, sacrifice Macedonia for which blood has been spilled,” Kammenos said on Sunday.

In Greece, Merkel embraces former Eurosceptics

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Angela Merkel left Greece on Friday after an unusual show of support for the leftwing government of Alexis Tsipras and disdain for her fellow-conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

What caused this reverse-polarity was the Syriza government’s agreement with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) last year to change that country’s name to North Macedonia.

That agreement has led to a series of constitutional revisions by Greece’s neighbour, expected to be finalized this week. The onus will then be on Greece to ratify the agreement. Greece’s veto on North Macedonia joining NATO and the European Union would then be lifted.

“I am especially grateful to Alexis Tsipras for taking the initiative on a very difficult problem,” Merkel said on Thursday, praising his “great courage”. Merkel had less kind words for Mitsotakis, leader of the New Democracy party, which vows to vote against the agreement.