Greek PM warns North Macedonia on EU bid

Greece warned on Friday (17 May) that North Macedonia’s reopening of a long-running name dispute could hurt its EU bid, hours after the incoming prime minister in Skopje rejected criticism from Athens.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the “road to Europe will remain closed” if the new government in Skopje failed to respect a hard-fought agreement signed in 2018.

He was speaking while campaigning ahead of the European Parliament elections from the Greek region of Macedonia, which lies at the heart of the dispute.

Mitsotakis said his government would not ratify a series of long-delayed accords that are part of the Prespa Agreement without “full compliance” from Skopje.

The Balkan nation added “North” to its title to end a long-running dispute with Greece, following the landmark deal.

At that time, the government in Skopje was social democratic, and there was a left-wing administration in power in Athens.

But North Macedonia’s prime minister designate Hristijan Mickoski, leader of right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party, revisited the issue on Thursday.

He said that while he acknowledged the reality of the country’s legal name, he would only use Macedonia in public appearances.

“My basic right is how am I going to call my state”, he told journalists in Skopje.

“If they (Greece) think that we have breached the Prespa agreement, there is an International Court of Justice,” he added.

“They can start a process there and we will argue the facts. I wouldn’t want that to happen.”

The name row between the Balkan neighbours re-ignited Sunday with the inauguration of North Macedonia’s first female president, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova.

She angered Greece by not acknowledging her country’s new name during the swearing-in ceremony in parliament.

The two countries have been in a decades-long dispute over the name and history, which led Greece to blocking the Skopje government’s bid to join NATO and the EU. North Macedonia joined NATO in 2020.

VMRO-DMPNE topped the 8 May legislative polls, while Siljanovska-Davkova won a five-year mandate in the second round of presidential voting.

The return of the right wing in the poor country of 1.8 million risks reigniting tensions with Greece and Bulgaria, which has also placed conditions on North Macedonia becoming an EU state.

Bulgaria has demanded Skopje change its constitution to acknowledge its Bulgarian minority. In 2022, Bulgaria agreed to a proposal by the then French Presidency of the Council of the EU to lift its veto on Skopje’s starting accession negotiations when North Macedonia adds the Bulgarian minority into the country’s constitution.

The ruling SDSM were prepared to make the amendments but lack the numbers to win a parliamentary vote. VMRO-DPMNE’s campaign ticket was the opposition to amending the constitution.


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