Political chaos in Greece after name deal with Macedonia

Published 04.07.2018 00:00
Updated 04.07.2018 01:16

The head of the Greek government's junior coalition partner said yesterday he will not allow a deal the country recently made with neighboring Macedonia over the latter's name to be ratified until it has voter approval, either through general elections or a referendum. The move underscores the fragility of Greece's ruling left-right coalition a year before elections.

The statements by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is the head of the right-wing Independent Greeks party, indicate he is prepared to bring down the coalition government over the deal that renames Greece's northern neighbor North Macedonia. "The deal for me is bad. I do not accept this deal, and I will try to block it," Kammenos said, as reported by The Associated Press.

With a razor-thin majority in parliament, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will need the support of Kammenos's seven lawmakers for the name deal to be ratified, or be left rummaging around for support from a smattering of independents. But in his first comments since the controversial pact was signed on June 17, defense minister Kammenos told a news conference he rejected the agreement to re-name the former Yugoslav state North Macedonia.

Tsipras's coalition is now backed by just 152 of the 300 seat parliament's lawmakers, after two MPs from Kammenos's right-wing Independent Greeks resigned from the party in the last month. He noted the only option for that to be avoided is if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras requires the agreement to pass with an enhanced majority of two-thirds of parliament, instead of the simple majority of 151 of the legislature's 300 seats, and the main opposition parties vote in favor — something they have indicated they will not do. Kammenos said Greece's northern neighbor "has no future in NATO if this deal is not ratified. And as far as Greece is concerned, I will see to it that this deal is not ratified — and I make a commitment for this — without the approval of the Greek people."

Greece has long objected to use of the term "Macedonia," saying it implies claims on the Greek province of the same name. The deal reached last month has met with strong objections in both countries, with opponents saying it concedes too much to the other side. Several demonstrations in Greece over the issue have turned violent.

Greece's parliament is to vote on the deal only after Macedonia has completed all steps required on its part, which includes constitutional changes. Macedonia's parliament recently ratified the deal, but the country's conservative president has refused to sign off on it. His move will delay, but probably not derail, the agreement, which is supposed to pave the way for Macedonia to join NATO. The issue is expected to be discussed during the NATO summit next week.

Compiled from wires

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