Tsipras and Zaev – a promising beginning

Erol Rizaov

For the first time we see two smiling prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia, who after three hours of dialogue, after three decades of difficult and painful talks to their predecessors, did nothing special except with the impediment of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the young neighboring country, they send a message to the public with the serenity that it is possible to find an acceptable solution for both sides which will mark good neighborly relations. I’ve seen the prime ministers ready for a historic step, although it should be received with reserve because the politicians are good actors. As much as they pretended, it was nice to see and hear that footage from Davos of the illuminated and well-crafted most responsible figures, the presidents of the governments, which has circled all around the world. More attention was drawn to their appearance, their good looks and smiles than what they said, even though it is much more significant. But it is too early to give over-emphasized and definite “for” and “against” votes. There is no room for euphoria.

The first breeze that blew from the Swiss mountains to clear the smog above Skopje was mild. It is only a good start that promises, if not happy, at least acceptable end of the decades-long blockade of Macedonia in achieving its state, strategic priorities for NATO and EU membership. For its future.

They have the right to claim that Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev look like they are brothers. They will look like each other even more if they do the job, if not like brothers, at least as friends. I believe that these two young and unburdened people with false patriotism and nationalism will have the courage to write a new page in the history between the two countries, full of heavy plaques and incurable wounds. If they remain alone in those intentions and are most honest in their commitments, which they publicly announce, it will be difficult to succeed. Without widespread support at home in their countries, all relevant political parties, parliaments, governments, presidents of the state, intellectual, academic and university and business elites, it will hardly achieve anything more than formal meetings where very soon the smiles will turn into frowny faces and obstacles that inevitably end up as another unsuccessful attempt to make an acceptable solution for the future of Macedonia and the entire Western Balkans. We’ve been watching this film for 27 years. There were good justifications, no solutions, in the past 27 years, Macedonia has shown that it cannot build a prosperous and democratic society without greater support from the West, even in spite of the large irretrievable financial aid and large money lending from the world’s banks. Tens of thousands of euros spent are huge debt, and the results are far below the EU average in all areas that measure European statistics. Basically, after the independence of the country in the past 27 years, Macedonia has regressed.

If the imposed issue between Greece and Macedonia is resolved, then it is close to the common sense that the good-neighborly relations of all Balkan countries will be improved, which opens the doors for the formation of the western Balkans Benelux, within the EU. If they can find a mutually acceptable solution, Greece and Macedonia can then find solutions to their non-understanding and conflicts all in the Balkans.

But what is really frightening and does not give room for great joy is the fact that the two prime ministers, still not returned to their countries, have received strong criticism, almost identical. It is only good that both sides are dissatisfied. Imagine what a blow it would have been if one of them, Tsipras or Zaev, was greeted with applause and euphoria that he did a great job for national interests. For Tsipras, his opponents in Greece say that he is playing David against Goliath in his own country. They say that he is lonely in a risky battle with his partner in the government with which he makes a majority, that he is weaker in the battle with the opposition, with the church and the bishops, with the populists and nationalist patriots… Yes, that’s what it looks like at this moment, but Tsipras is aware of this, his answer even before leaving for Davos was that he was ready to be a victim, but he is convinced that what he does is good for both Greece and Macedonia and the whole region and Europe.

Zoran Zaev is also alone on several fronts in his own country. He was fiercely criticized about the law on expanding the use of languages. With the opposition, there is hardly any chance of establishing an essential dialogue leading to the solution of the problem. VMRO DPMNE’s views on a mutually acceptable solution with Greece and Brussels are known and verified for 11 years while on the country’s border and when Macedonia on the road to Europe practically returned back to where it was 11 years ago. Among the Albanian coalition partners that make up the small majority in parliament, there are also incessant difficulties and delicate relations that are fiercely opposed to DUI’s largest coalition partner and partly partners in supporting the government in parliament. In such “thin” positions of the governments of Tsipras and Zaev, Brussels and Washington see in this situation the most favorable moment to resolve the decade-imposed dispute. Does that mean that the EU and Washington’s trump card has not yet been put on the table. In the near future, if the prospect of an acceptable solution on both sides increases, both Brussels and Washington are expected to perform in the finish with something more specific than just support. It will not be the usual ‘carrot and stick’, take or leave tactics, but suggestions for a certain future and economic stabilization of Macedonia and the end of the Greek crisis. It is not only about the prompt invitation for NATO membership and the start of Macedonia’s EU negotiations, but also support in the use of European funds and US assistance to overcome the association’s chapters with the EU and apply new military and democratic standards with the partnership in NATO.

The criticisms directed at Zaev for accepting a change in the name of the Skopje Airport and the highway, especially those that have a negative attitude towards memorialization and political intervention in science in the search for an ancient past, are really surprising. That shame, which turns us back and takes away the world’s simulations, cannot be a subject of bargaining. If I were Zaev, I would have done it before I went to Davos. But we will have to take off this anti-commerce hour sooner than the agenda and the new antique heads, because it brought us nothing good, only bad.
If something weakened Macedonia’s position, it was an anomaly, organized crime, corruption, human rights violations and the establishment of a regime. Lawsuits are underway for all these crimes, which are expected to fulfill part of the obligation to release the state and the institutions of the system.
The renaming of public buildings, streets and institutions with names of ancient heroes is not yet abandoned, and the correction of that nonsense that has undermined the foundations of the Macedonian national identity Slavic origin and language was the easiest thing to do. The return of the names and the airport and the highway, which is 4,000 kilometers long, is called 75, and in the streets bearing the names of meritorious Macedonian people and world personalities had to be done for us, or for the Greeks, or for the EU.

Of what we should be especially careful is that Greeks are still difficult and very clever negotiators. Alexis Tsipars is no exception. On the contrary, in negotiations with the EU to repair the economic crisis proved to be a strong and strong player who managed to get the most from the EU and from Germany and the United States. It should always be kept in mind that the whole thing needs to be resolved in one package. If one goes for a part of the first breakthroughs for NATO membership, so the rest of the negotiations for the EU membership remains, it will be difficult to find an acceptable solution. The Greeks take everything you give, and then start the negotiations from the beginning. It is one danger that is less visible, but always present. The second big mystery is that it will encompass erga omnes, the Greek red line for all uses. And finally the most sensitive moment will there be a third thorough change of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia by Greece. A widespread burden will be difficult to endure, even if Zaev has 85 MPs in the Parliament.
It has long been clear to many citizens in Macedonia that the concessions for the benefits of NATO and EU membership are acceptable, although they are extremely unfair and insulting, but they also have red lines to the possible extent.