Greece irked in ‘Macedonia’ name dispute
An acting minister in North Macedonia’s caretaker government has angered Greek politicians and reopened awkward issues surrounding the country of 2 million’s name ahead of an April general election.
Labour minister Rashela Mizrahi of the pro-Russian but awkwardly named Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) party has appeared in front of the former name the “Republic of Macedonia” without the word “North”.
The former Yugoslav republic officially became North Macedonia after a deal signed with Greece in 2018 at Prespa and a subsequent referendum and parliamentary vote. The compromise led Greece to allow its neighbour to join Nato. Greeks had long claimed that the use of the name Macedonia implied territorial claims on the northern Greek province of the same name.
After two years of work to push through the name change and sign an agreement with Athens, Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was disappointed to be told in October that European Union expansion was not currently on offer. This setback led Zaev to call an early general election for April 12.
Displays reading “North Macedonia” are not yet installed at all government ministries. Mizrahi’s predecessor as the labour minister, Mila Casovska, had used temporary banners reading “Republic of North Macedonia” in multiple languages.
North Macedonia parliament unanimously ratified an agreement this week to become the 30th Nato member.
All 114 MPs present in the 120-seat chamber voted for ratification and a Nato flag was raised outside the building.
The vote took place several weeks ahead of schedule because the parliament is being dissolved this week ahead of the election.
Spain is the only Nato member that has not yet approved North Macedonia’s application. Spanish MPs are expected to hold a ratification vote next month.
Nato membership had been blocked for more than two decades by Greece.
Greece was the first country to ratify North Macedonia’s addition to the alliance.
But Mizrahi’s press appearances have been condemned by Greek politicians.
North Macedonian foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, called for Mizrahi to be sacked unless she stopped appearing in front of the country’s old name.
“The state will not allow such infantilism. The Labour and Social Policy Ministry is not her private apartment, just as the constitution is not merely a piece of paper,” Dimitrov said. “The minister may not like the constitution or the Prespa treaty but that does not entitle her to not apply it. Without the principle of constitutionality and legality, nothing will be left of the state.”
Zaev’s left-of-centre Social Democrats were in opposition for a decade before governing with the support of ethnic-Albanian parties for two years.
Macedonia has joined Nato. Picture credit: US National Guard