In a fawning interview published by the Financial Times, Greek leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras describes how Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was unwilling to accept his overture to rename Macedonia. Gruevski was deposed in an internationally supported campaign whose apparent goal was to rename and redefine Macedonia, away from a Macedonian nation state – a move Gruevski vehemently refused to accept.
Gruevski was a guy who never wanted to negotiate. I remember that I went to Berlin. I met Chancellor Merkel. We discussed for a long time the economic crisis, debt, deficits, memoranda and so on. We decided to talk about external policy as well, and I said, ‘I want to solve this problem, even with Gruevski. I’ll try to provoke him by sitting him down at a table. If he doesn’t want to sit down at a table, I will accuse him [of not wanting a settlement]. She told me, ‘I don’t believe you.’ I asked why. She said, ‘Because all your predecessors never wanted even to open this case, especially [former premier Antonis] Samaras, Tsipras tells the FT.
Tsipars is now presenting himself as a dealmaker who managed to resolve one of the Balkan issues, even claiming the Nobel peace prize for his efforts. For Macedonia, the process meant deep divisions, trampling of democracy by subverting the outcome of the 2018 referndum, arrests of members of Parliament who were forced to vote in favor of the new name, and a rise of Albanian nationalism – an issue the FT says Greece will also have to deal with soon. Tsipras, on the other hand, remains rosy in his view of how things played out, and presents the solution to the name issue as a move that unties Greek hands to deal with Turkey to its east.
My view is that Greece will only benefit if we manage to solve disputes with our northern neighbours. Greece has enough differences with its neighbours to the east — we don’t need more problems with our northern neighbours, especially if they are countries that I believe are not threatening to Greece. I don’t think Angela really believed me, but I proved that I meant what I said when developments in Skopje showed there was an opportunity, the leftist Prime Minister told the Financial Times, while pointing out that Greece also paid a price in the talks because it put its history on the line.
Tsipras is likely to be defeated in the coming European and municipal elections, as well as in the general elections due later this year, and as both nations overwhelmingly reject the treaty, and the opposition parties in both countries were not consulted, or actively assaulted to push the treaty through, the change of Government can lead to reassessment of the Tsipras – Zaev deal.