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“Macedonian government probably ready to change name, but not the people”

The European Commission has published “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans.” According to the paper, in order to become EU members, four countries of the region and one “territory” (Kosovo) need to settle several painful issues. For Macedonia, such an issue is coming to consensus with the neighboring Greece on its name.

To remind, Greece does not recognize the right of its northern neighbor for the constitutional name “The Republic of Macedonia” being concerned that the neighbor can have claims for the Greek region of Macedonia.

The talks on the issue between Skopje and Athens being held for 25 years already have recently intensified under mediation of UN Special Representative Matthew Nimetz. Prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, say they are determined to come to consensus as soon as possible. Meanwhile, mass protest actions are being held in Greek cities: their participants speak against any mentioning of Macedonia in the name of the neighboring country.

Speaking on prospects of a compromise between Macedonia and Greece to EADaily, Milenko Nedelkovski, a Macedonian journalist and TV host, said he does not share Prime Minister Zaev’s confidence in Macedonia’s readiness to find a compromise regarding the name of the country.

“Maybe, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Macedonian political parties are ready for it. But Macedonia and the Macedonian people are in no way ready for it,” Nedelkovski said.

At the same time, strange as it may seem, but the Greek people today are the best ally of Macedonians in their struggle for keeping the official name of the country. “Nationalism is so strongly rooted in Greeks that they do not want to see the name 'Macedonia' in any other country's name. It sound extremely absurd, but they even do not want hearing about a name that contains the word ‘Macedonia’,” Nedelkovski explained.

According to the Macedonian expert, even if the Macedonian prime minister is working on changing the name, he will certainly face two problems. The first one is that to amend the constitution (as the name “The Republic of Macedonia” is confirmed by the constitution) two thirds of votes of the parliament are needed, he mentioned.

“It means that even the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party needs to agree to it. Although I must say that VMRO-DPMNE are clients of the United States just like Zoran Zaev’s party (The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia),” the expert noted.

The second problem is that Zaev will probably implement his plan in Macedonia, but this is not going to happen in Greece, Milenko Nedelkovski said. “I think that both nations are dissatisfied with what is going on. For Greeks, this may be not that significant, their government will have its own problems in the streets. But in Macedonia, it is not that easy to change the name, because there must be a decision of the parliament on it,” the Macedonian journalist stressed.

Answering the question if an agreement on the name of Macedonia is reached that soon as the heads of the Greek and Macedonian governments insist, Nedelkovski said: “The government makes various decisions like on introducing the second official language (the Macedonian parliament recently passed a law making the Albanian the second official language - EADaily) or a decision to sign a good neighborly relations treaty with Bulgaria. But all these are mere words. This does not mean that they will be implemented. Another government will replace the current one and everything will be back to its place. I am not sure that these new decisions will have a historical dimension,” the expert concluded.

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