‘Window of opportunity’ opening in the post-Gruevski era, government sources say

A “window of opportunity” is opening up in the post-Gruevski era, as Athens and Skopje embark on a course of dialogue and rapprochement for the first time in 11 years, Greek government officials stated to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Thursday.

In the aftermath of a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev in Davos on Wednesday, the same sources said that Athens insists that the key issue is to reach an overall solution that creates new foundations for relations between Greece and FYROM.

Government sources made a positive assessment of the meeting between Tsipras and Zaev, saying that progress was made, and that this was confirmed by the gestures of good will announced by the two leaders in their joint statements.

They especially emphasised on the importance of Zaev’s move to rename Skopje airport and a major FYROM motorway – both named “Alexander the Great”.

The Greek side sees this as a “first step of progress,” and an “active demonstration of Zoran Zaev’s will to remove the irredentist positions of FYROM’s former governments,” they said.

Tsipras made it absolutely clear during Wednesday’s meeting with Zaev that there can only be a solution if this involves a compound name for use in relations to everyone, the sources added.

The Greek prime minister noted that Greece’s position is clear that “in relations to everyone means in relations to everyone,” while noting that a real solution must be found that Greece’s neighbour can also feel proud of and will be able to support at home. Tsipras insisted on the issue of FYROM’s constitution, with Zaev replying that this was a matter he was trying to address but also “a very difficult issue”. According to the sources, Tsipras urged Zaev to “tell his people the truth as I did and you will not lose”.

Summing up Athens’ position, the sources said, Tsipras underlined: “First we talk and arrive at a solution that will be a compound name erga omnes, eliminating the slightest hint of irredentism, and afterwards we proceed with FYROM’s invitation to join the NATO and the processes for its accession to the European Union”.

“We are the first government in whose tenure the irredentist monuments were scaled down instead of increasing,” the Greek government sources said.