There is no doubt that the outstanding issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should have been resolved long ago. That is what the Greek national interests mandated in1992 and still do today.
Greece has many reasons to support the unity of FYROM, so that it will not be an arena for conflicts and competitions, or for the rekindling of Balkan passions.
Our country also has many reasons to seek a peaceful, prosperous, and inter-connected Balkans, linked with Europe.
The Balkans could in that case serve to expand Greece’s economic influence so as to operate as another hinterland for Greek interests and provide a secure and free conduit to and from Greece for products, services, and travelers.
Moreover, everyone can discern that our northern neighbours are not in a position to threaten in any way our nation’s territorial integrity and homogeneity.
These issues have been judged decisively and irrevocably, as distinguished historians have said, back in 1923, with the exchange of populations and the settling in northern Greece of 700,000 Greek refugees from the Pontus region and Asia Minor.
Despite all that, the issue at hand, and particularly the FYROM naming issue and the irredentist intentions that it reflects, continues to be divisive and disorienting in Greece, because it is used in domestic power plays.
In 1993, then prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis lost power due to the clash over the name at that time.
Now, the government of Alexis Tsipras is seeking to exploit the issue in order to transcend an underlying governmental crisis, and to mask the wear and tear of governance.
It attempted to split an up-and-coming New Democracy, to immobilise it politically, and at the same time to construct a partnership governmental scheme, as the current ruling coalition partner, Panos Kammenos and his Independent Greeks party, is exhausted. They express objections and do not appear to serve any longer the left-wing government’s policy of alliances.
The prime minister “played with the “Macedonian issue”, and decided that through it, he could erect new dividing lines, highlight differences with the centre-right, and achieve what he could not with the economy, in which, to borrow his own term, he was forced to “soil his hands”, adopting the same policies as those of his ideological and political opponents.
Main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was carried away by the pressure from Mr. Tsipras, and was shaken by the elective affinities of his party with the politically diverse masses at the Thessaloniki protest.
He was forced to change and adopt reasoning that is alien to his convictions, and to tolerate nationalist voices and far-right rhetoric, which everyone knows he despises.
The fact that he was forced to compromise for the sake of party unity does not alter the parameters of the problem.
As things are going, Greece will quite possibly miss yet another opportunity to close this open front and thus play a dominant role in the region, with multiple benefits.
Our country would have much to gain if it were to play its role in the region decisively, especially now that it is preparing to re-enter the international economic system.
This confluence of events could yield multiple benefits.
Transforming foreign policy into a domestic affair and a tool for achieving other objectives is not, unfortunately, the best way to advance national interests.
On the contrary, it exhibits weakness and delay. It reveals how weak our leaderships are.