‘Some distance’ left to solve Macedonia name row: Greece
Expectations of a deal rose this week as a meeting in Sofia was announced between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonia counterpart Zoran Zaev on May 11.
But Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos insisted on May 14 that “another round may be needed to cover the distance separating the two sides.”
“There is still some distance to cover,” Tzanakopoulos told reporters.
Officials had previously said that the two leaders would only meet if there was a chance of an accord.
The spat has hampered Macedonia’s ambitions to join the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
“Thursday’s meeting between the prime minister and his counterpart Mr Zaev will be particularly useful and important, but we cannot anticipate an accord,” Tzanakopoulos said.
A Macedonia government source confirmed on May 15 that the main remaining difficulty is over the official name of the landlocked Balkan country’s language.
Greece wants any changes to be enshrined in a revised Macedonian constitution, which Zaev’s government currently lacks the parliamentary majority to enforce.
Tzanakopoulos left open the possibility of an international treaty setting out a binding roadmap for future constitutional revision.
When the two leaders last met in Davos, Switzerland in January, Zaev made a gesture of conciliation in renaming Alexander the Great airport in Skopje, a name that had long riled the Greeks.
Greek veto threats have also hampered Skopje’s bid to become a member of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
Among possible new names, Gorna Makedonija or Upper Macedonia is the most frequently mentioned.