Greek de­fence min­is­ter re­signs over Mace­do­nia name change

The Expositor (Brantford) - - CLASSIFIEDS - Demetris Nellas

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s con­ser­va­tive de­fence min­is­ter, who leads the ju­nior part­ner in the coun­try’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment, re­signed Sun­day over the Mace­do­nia name deal, which he op­poses.

Panos Kam­menos an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion after meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras on Sun­day morn­ing. He said his party is quit­ting the gov­ern­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras said, in re­sponse, that he will ask for a vote of con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment in the com­ing week. He added he had a “frank dis­cus­sion” with Kam­menos, whom he thanked for his gov­ern­ment part­ner­ship.

Tsipras also an­nounced that Ad­mi­ral Evan­ge­los Apos­to­lakis, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will re­place Kam­menos as de­fence min­is­ter.

Greece and Mace­do­nia agreed last June to a deal that would change the name of Greece’s north­ern neigh­bour to North Mace­do­nia. In ex­change, Greece would lift its ob­jec­tions to the coun­try join­ing NATO. The deal ended a dis­pute that had been go­ing on since the early 1990s.

Mace­do­nia’s par­lia­ment rat­i­fied the deal on Fri­day and the Greek par­lia­ment now needs a ma­jor­ity for its rat­i­fi­ca­tion, but Greek con­ser­va­tives be­lieve that Tsipras gave too many con­ces­sions in agree­ing to the deal.

Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party has 145 deputies in the 300-mem­ber Greek Par­lia­ment. With the de­par­ture of his coali­tion part­ner, Tsipras would need op­po­si­tion help to pass the Mace­do­nia name deal.

In a press con­fer­ence that fol­lowed his res­ig­na­tion, Kam­menos made it clear that he and his party, the right-wing pop­ulist In­de­pen­dent Greeks, will vote against the gov­ern­ment con­fi­dence mo­tion, as well as the Mace­do­nia name deal, when it comes up for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, and the pro­to­col ap­prov­ing Mace­do­nia’s NATO mem­ber­ship.

Kam­menos claimed that rat­i­fy­ing the Mace­do­nia name deal by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

He ad­mit­ted, how­ever that he is only as­sured of three votes, his own and that of two other law­mak­ers, one of whom, Maria Kol­li­aTsaroucha, the deputy de­fence min­is­ter, will re­sign along with Kam­menos.

Two other law­mak­ers, one an ally who is not a party mem­ber, have long de­clared they will vote for the Mace­do­nia name deal.

Kam­menos harshly crit­i­cized the re­main­ing two al­lied law­mak­ers, Tourism Min­is­ter Elena Koun­toura and Deputy Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Vas­silis Kokkalis, who are both on trips abroad. Nei­ther one has stated their po­si­tion on the con­fi­dence mo­tion but Kokkalis has said he will vote against the name change deal. Kam­menos im­plied that both would do any­thing to keep their jobs.

In the Mace­do­nian cap­i­tal of Skopje, Mace­do­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Nikola Dim­itrov told a press con­fer­ence Sun­day that he has been “as­sured” by a Greek gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial that Athens re­mains “strongly com­mit­ted” to com­plet­ing its part of the name change deal.

Yor­gos Karahalis/AP PHOTO

Greek De­fence Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos, cen­tre, makes a state­ment to the me­dia fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Greece’s Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, in Athens, on Sun­day.

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