Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said yesterday that there is still no final agreement on the name Republic of Northern Macedonia, but that Greece and Macedonia have defined the terms and principles, and are very close to closing this issue. Zaev announced that he would talk to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras today, or Friday the latest, but was not specific whether the meeting would actually be historic, and put an end to the 27-year-old dispute.
“It is fair to talk about the legal-formal aspect of a possible agreement and the terms for its implementation. You know that in Macedonia we all stand behind a referendum. If we stand behind a referendum, and Greece has that understanding, it’s okay, it’s logical to set the steps for implementing a possible agreement. Ratification of the agreement in the legislature will be so that Greece can send a letter to NATO in order for Macedonia to receive an invitation to NATO,” Zaev said, adding that the referendum would be held in September or October of this year, and the citizens will have the final say. The government’s assessment is that Greece and Macedonia have never been closer to a final agreement.
“We have never been closer to a solution, and friendship has never been closer as well. We have confirmed our language and identity, what we need now is leadership, and not just empty words,” Zaev said and urged citizens to give their support.
“Citizens are about to write a new chapter – we need a Fourth Ilinden,” he said.
About the numerous criticisms directed to Macedonia in the non-paper from France and the Netherlands, Prime Minister Zaev said that it is no news that the reforms only just started, and it will take time for them to be implemented to the end.
“They clearly and friendly pointed out to our weaknesses, we continue to remove them, primarily to create better conditions for the citizens.
According to the published framework in the media, in addition to the ratification and referendum, there will be a constitutional review that would happen after the referendum, and the agreement would be signed in Prespa. Opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski did not comment on the specific rumors of the name, and President Gjorge Ivanov said he was not informed about the framework for resolving the dispute. Zaev announced that Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov would brief the head of state.
DUI leader and SDSM government partner Ali Ahmeti in an interview with the Kosovo daily “Epoka e Re”, except that the government’s performance in the first year was considered successful, added that if the negotiations with Greece are successfully completed, Macedonia will have open doors to join NATO and the EU.
“It is clear that we are part of very important negotiations for finding a solution to the name dispute. We are on the right track to find a compromise and solution with our neighbor Greece. The whole public already knows that this issue is the only obstacle for Macedonia’s accession to NATO, as well as for starting accession negotiations with the EU. So the top priority of this government is this issue, and we are all committed to contributing to solving it as soon as possible, because in this way we will contribute in the peace, security and stability of the region,” Ahmeti said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also reiterated his firm interest in resolving the dispute with Macedonia in order to make Greece a positive example for all countries in the Balkans.
“We are not referring to the political price, we are working on a solution,” Tsipras said, adding that his government “believes that it will restore the leading position in the Balkans”. According to the Greek government’s assessment, the solution, in addition to contributing to peace and stability in the Balkans, will also have positive economic benefits.
“The solution will lead to processes that will create a new dynamic for development and cooperation with all countries in the region, while at the same time it will stop the economic and political aspirations of other countries like Turkey,” Tsipras said.