Macedonia must revise constitution before name deal: Greece
A 27-year name row between Greece and Macedonia cannot be resolved without constitutional revision in the neighboring country, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on May 19 amid hopes for a June deal.
In a speech to his party later on May 19, Tsipras said the countries were “closer than ever before” to a solution.
“We must not lose this historic opportunity. Let’s not make clumsy steps in the final meters to the finish line,” he said.
The name dispute between the two countries dates back to 1991, when Skopje declared independence from war-torn Yugoslavia.
Greece wants the change of name to be backed with a constitutional change and for it to be applied on the “erga omnes” (“towards all”) legal principle, meaning universal use inside and outside Macedonia.
But even with the support of the ethnic Albanian minority parties, Zaev’s government does not have a majority to pass a constitutional change in parliament.
“We were discussing many options and we agreed on one that is acceptable for both sides,” Zaev said on May 17, without giving further detail.
Reference to Ilinden, a 1903 uprising against the Ottoman Empire and a key event for Macedonia’s national identity, is apparently aimed at securing support from Zaev’s nationalist opponents in parliament toward a possible deal. Later in the day, however, the Greek PM’s office said the chosen name had to have a “geographical or chronological qualifier,” apparently disqualifying the latest proposal.
Athens has said it will only compromise on a name as part of an overall deal covering related issues, such as the official name of the landlocked Balkan country’s language.
“In these negotiations, you either agree on everything or on nothing,” Tsipras said this week, leaving open the possibility of a new meeting with Zaev in early June.
He noted that the next milestone is a meeting of European foreign ministers on June 25, where Macedonia hopes to receive a possible date to begin EU accession talks.