Last year in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev made a pact for a historic and civilized goal – to solve a very difficult problem, long declared as unsolvable by the rest of the world. Zaev and Tsipras did not start from the piles of painful layers, but began from the future. They first set the goal they wanted to achieve, and the way to achieve it was left to foreign ministers Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov and their teams. Zaev and Tsipras, who are close in age and ideology, and even look alike, have accepted the rule that in such tangled and delicate situations, only mutually acceptable solutions and concessions can lead to a final agreement that is applicable and sustainable in practice. It is the key doctrine of success in countries with a democratic tradition of compromise and a different mentality. However, in Greece and Macedonia, nothing is over until it’s over. Surprises are always a possibility, when they are least expected.
Today, one year later, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is back in Davos, where he probably observes the developments in the Greek parliament more diligently and more cautiously than the world leaders and economic experiments that announce their estimates and forecasts that the world awaits in the year before us. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens is leading one of the heaviest and fiercest battles ahead of the end of his four-year term with predictions that he will be defeated in the elections, according to public opinion polls. Greek experts say the Prespa Agreement is more difficult for him than negotiations with European leaders for hundreds of billions of debts from previous governments in Greece. Rescuing Greece from bankruptcy, and taking the country out of crisis did not bring as many points to Tsipras as the Prespa Agreement has taken away. Tsipras has repeated many times to the Greek and world public that he is aware of the sacrifice he has to make, he and his party, but will stay consistent with his view to the last moment that it is a civil and patriotic act in the interests of the two countries, the entire region and Europe.
Until a few days ago, the same drama took place in the Macedonian Parliament, which eventually ended with the adoption of the constitutional amendments. The relief of the supporters of the Prespa Agreement is only partial in Macedonia, because it becomes insignificant, as if it was not adopted, if it is not ratified in the Greek parliament.
While prime ministers Tsipras and Zaev have the same arguments before the public and defend them persistently, the opposition parties in both countries seek mandate to annul the agreement by sending poisonous populist messages to the public with almost identical vocabulary. For both opposition camps, the Prespa Agreement is a betrayal of the national interests of the Greek and Macedonian people. The difference is that the leader of the Greek opposition, along with the far-right and the Communists, thinks the compromise to allow the name of Macedonia to keep its fellow neighbor is harmful, regardless of whether it becomes a geographical or any appendix. It is betrayal, they say, to accept the existence of a Macedonian language, and even worse the national affiliation to be Macedonian and to have a Macedonian nation, Macedonian citizenship and everything that goes along with the term Macedonian.
The leader of the Macedonian opposition thinks that the addition of the word ‘North’ is farewell to the name Republic of Macedonia, that with the new name North Macedonia everything is lost – the identity, the language, the nationality, the citizenship, the history and the dignity of the Macedonian people. It is a matter of historical injustice and humiliation, says Mickoski. In essence, both opposition leaders with great relief accept the reality that this hard work was cmopleted by political opponents. But they see a chance to gain more points in the political struggle to win power. They neither intend, try, nor will they be able to change anything if they come to power.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is probably preoccupied with the idea of accepting early general elections, not because Hristijan Mickoski and VMRO-DPMNE demand elections, but because that idea seems tempting and according to the research guaranteed victory. If the Greek parliament makes the expected decision, it seems that Zaev will easily decide whether his party will go to elections, or first complete the two key things – the NATO membership and start negotiations with the EU. This decision must be made by him, since his personal responsibility is the greatest. In Davos, in the fresh mountain air, Zaev should recall the formula for success in complex situations, as it was last year when he met Alexis Tsipras.
So, we return again to the same historical goal. NATO membership and start of negotiations with the European Union. If it is a long and clear target for the future and security of the state, then the decision is much easier, of course, if the agreement is ratified in the Greek parliament. Sitting at a joint table with NATO allies and raising the Macedonian flag in front of the Alliance’s headquarters and launching negotiations with the EU this year is the largest capital. Prime Minister Zaev and his coalition partners have two years at their disposal to achieve more results than in the past 17 months, which they mainly spent in dismantling Gruevski’s regime and removing obstacles that are still strong and still causing great damage, starting with the president of the country, to a large number of party staff that is still in important and responsible positions in all institutions of the system and in the public enterprises. The Government leaving them on these jobs would be a good thing if it was accepted as a gesture of reconciliation. But the abuse of such important positions in party goals causes great damage. Accepting early general elections at a time of secured majority, in key situations, would encourage the regimes of the regime to even more severe impediments to reform efforts.
There is an unwritten rule in politics – put your flag on what you have done, do not leave it for after the elections, because the opponent can easily label it as his success. It is inconceivable to prolong NATO membership and start negotiations with the EU due to elections in the middle of a 4-year term, at risk not only to lose the elections, but also if they win, to lose a lot of time yet again to achieve the same goal. If the elections were lost, it would have been a defeat not only of the current ruling political parties, but also calls into question of what was achieved after the collapse of the Nikola Gruevski regime. He is closely observing the situation from Budapest and is awaiting the chance to return if his successors keep their promise to Greece. Yes, and this is a significant fact that should be considered if there are early elections.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik