Tzanakopoulos: Gov’t will strive for name issue solution without jeopardising Greece’s interests

The government desires a solution to the FYROM name issue, which has caused problems for Greece for over 25 years, though on no account will it place the country’s national interests at risk, State Minister and government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopulos said in an interview to 24/7 radio on Thursday.

“We will do what is required of us in order to reach a solution to the issue without, on any account, jeopardising the national interests of the country,” he said.

“The government wants and is doing all it can to succeed in resolving a problem that has dogged the country for over 25 years, constantly creating complications on the international stage, and I believe that, precisely because the Balkans are a destabilised area that has been through a lot, it is very important for all outstanding issues to be gradually settled, one after the other… The region must make the transition to a historic period of joint development, cooperation and solidarity,” he added.

He rejected opposition claims that the government had not yet presented its positions, noting that both the prime minister and the foreign minister “have spoken about the issue and expressed the government’s position with great clarity.”

He also stressed the need for a broader political consensus on the issue and urged main opposition New Democracy to “stop playing hide-and-seek” and “adopt a position not based on domestic political events and opposition tactics but to speak clearly, adopt a clear position on what it will do, one that is guided by the interests of the country…”

Regarding the start of negotiations on UN mediator Matthew Nimetz’s proposals, Tzanakopoulos said that these were “an initial framework” and that Greece will negotiate for a compound name for FYROM, to be used in relations with everyone.

Questioned about the objections raised by some to including the term “Macedonia” in the compound name, Tzanakopoulos noted that negotiations “are not football matches so that we can talk about victories and defeats”.

“What we need is a mutually acceptable solution that will serve as a solution for both sides. Otherwise, there is no point in embarking on an effort for agreement, understanding and mutual compromises,” the spokesman said, while criticising “hypernationalist” views and pointing out that FYROM’s current name also contained the term “Macedonia”.

Regarding the protest rally planned in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Sunday, Tzanakopoulos said that the government takes public opinion and the different opinions that are expressed into account while noting that there was no point in approaching the specific issue via protest rallies.

About the issue raised by the Church of Greece and the letters exchanged by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, he said the government was handling the Church issue “with the greatest possible sensitivity.”

Finally, in response to questions about Greece’s exit from the memorandum programmes in August 2018, Tzanakopoulos explained that a “clean exit” was “nothing more than our ability to access the money markets ourselves, in other words without the need for support from the official sector through loans and no new ‘prior action’ reforms after August 2018.”