Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, PM Alexis Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, were called to a cabinet meeting today to carve out a common government posture on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) naming issue.
“This will be the year that we shall resolve foreign policy issues that have been festering for years and on which the national interest demands that we find correct and productive solutions,” Kotzias said.
“On the naming issue, the government has repeatedly underlined it is negotiating to agree on a composite name for all uses, which Greece had supported at [the 2008 NATO summit] Bucharest,” he added, calling for an understanding between all political parties.
Kammenos said that he supports the efforts of the foreign minister to conduct tough negotiations with the FYROM leadership to reach a solution that will ensure Greece’s national interests.
Kammenos begins backpedaling
Asked if he was firm about his objection to approving any use of the name Macedonia by Skopje, Kammenos appeared to backpedal somewhat.
“The negotiations will be tough, and when the time comes, the [country’s] political forces will have to shape the final, national solution,” he said.
Kammenos also sarcastically thanked main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis for “recognizing that the Independent Greeks will decide on behalf of the right-wing and that he will accept any decision on the Skopje issue”.
Mitsotakis has said his party will not take a position until Tsipras and Kammenos agree on a common line, and that the divisions in the ruling coalition weaken Greece’s negotiating posture.
Kotzias will meet in Athens with FYROM’s deputy prime minister for European Aaffairs, Bujar Osman on 9 October.
Ten days later, the UN’s special representative on the naming issue, Matthew Nimetz, will meet with negotiators for the two sides.