The likely future President of the European Commission Manfred Weber denied yesterday that he supports the Prespa deal to rename Macedonia into North Macedonia.

Weber, who is the head of the European People’s Party group in the European Parilament, was quoted by a left leaning Brussels news site Euractiv on Thursday as supporting the deal, and saying that Macedonia will have to change its name in order to achieve EU integration. But, in a tweet posted later, Weber denied that he was ever interview by Euractiv on the issue. He also expressed support for the views of EPP party members New Democracy from Greece and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which is opposed to the Prespa treaty.

I fully respect the sensitivity of the Greek people on the name issue with FYROM. There was no interview on this topic. I respect the stance of @kmitsotakis and I strongly believe that he will lead Greece to stability and prosperity by tackling populism, Weber wrote, using the short version of the interim reference for Macedonia, which Macedonians find offensive.

Some EPP party politicians called on the two countries, and especially on Maceodnia, to ratify the treaty. Both EPP party members from Macedonia and Greece, VMRO-DPMNE and New Democracy, as strongly opposed to the treaty as damaging to the respective national interests of the countries. The Prespa treaty was pushed exclusively by the socialist parties in Macedonia and in Greece, without input from the opposition, and these parties historically did not represent the portion of the population which is strongly invested in the issue.

Weber’s move to distance himself from the Prespa treaty comes at a time when his political patron Angela Merkel is in Greece, where she is believed to be pushing New Democracy to support the deal, or at least its future implementation, given that it is expected to be in office soon.