Doubts cast over name deal

Re­ports that FYROM’s Zaev im­plied ex­is­tence of ‘Mace­do­nian’ mi­nor­ity in Greece not re­futed by Skopje

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Athens said it ex­pects the For­mer Yu­goslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia to fully re­spect the “let­ter and spirit” of the name deal it signed with Greece last sum­mer af­ter re­ports that the Balkan coun­try’s Prime Min­is­ter Zo­ran Zaev said that “Mace­do­nians” in Greece will have the right to be taught the “Mace­do­nian” lan­guage.

Ac­cord­ing to FYROM news sites mkd.mk and ve­cer.mk, Zaev’s re­marks were made to a law­maker of the na­tion­al­ist VMRO party who asked about the fate of so-called “Aegean Mace­do­nians” un­der the deal – also known as the Pre­spes agree­ment.

In re­sponse to ques­tions posed by Kathimerini – whether Zaev did in­deed re­fer to “Aegean Mace­do­nians” and their right to be taught “Mace­do­nian,” and if his com­ments im­ply the ex­is­tence of a “Mace­do­nian” mi­nor­ity in Greece – FYROM’s gov­ern­ment spokesman Mile Bos­n­jakovski said that un­der the Pre­spes deal his coun­try’s lan­guage be­longs to the group of south­ern Slavic lan­guages and that it will be­come an of­fi­cial lan­guage of the Eu­ro­pean Union when FYROM joins the bloc. He also said there are no ar­ti­cles in the deal spec­i­fy­ing lan­guage use in FYROM and Greece. He didn’t say whether Zaev re­ferred to “Aegean Mace­do­nians.”

Ear­lier, Greece’s Al­ter­nate For­eign Min­is­ter Gior­gos Ka­trouga­los said that Athens ex­pects FYROM to fully re­spect the name deal it signed with Greece last sum­mer “in let­ter and spirit” but added that Athens must first see the ex­act text of Zaev’s re­marks.

Greece in­sists that FYROM’s in­sis­tence on de­scrib­ing the Slavic lan­guage of FYROM as “Mace­do­nian” is tan­ta­mount to an at­tempt to ap­pro­pri­ate the her­itage of the Greek cul­ture of the an­cient Mace­do­nians.

Un­der the agree­ment, FYROM must erase ref­er­ences in its con­sti­tu­tion that could lead to ir­re­den­tist claims to Greece’s north­ern prov­ince of Mace­do­nia.

For its part, op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy slammed what it de­scribed as Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras’s “provoca­tive” si­lence on the is­sue.

The con­ser­va­tives said in a state­ment that the Pre­spes name deal “en­cour­ages in­stead of eras­ing Skopje’s ir­re­den­tism.” “The state­ment by Zaev about the ca­pa­bil­ity of teach­ing the so­called Mace­do­nian lan­guage in our coun­try is a provo­ca­tion to all Greeks,” it said.

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