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Kathimerini: In December Venizelos sent a letter to the US over perceived pressure on the name issue



Greek Kathimerini daily reports that they were shown a letter former Foreign Affairs Minister Evangelos Venizelos sent to his American colleague John Kerry, over a December situation when Macedonia was named under its constitutional name at a meeting the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria convened by the United States. Kathimerini, in a longer analysis piece by Sotiris Siderios, reports that Greece took this situation as sign of pressure from the United States, but also warns the current Government that it shouldn’t back down under continued pressure from Berlin, Brussels and Washington.

In early December Macedonia was one of the over 60 allied countries invited for a Foreign Minister level meeting to discuss action against ISIS. Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Popovski was announced under the constitutional name, which the United States has used fully since 2004. MIA correspondent in Brussels reported at the time that Venizelos was fine with this, but reacted bitterly later, when Greek media called him out on it. Greece was then in pre­election fervour, which led to the collapse of the Government, and Venizelos claimed before the Greek media he has in fact left the meeting in protest. Now Kathimerini reports that he did send a letter to Secretary Kerry.

“In the letter, Venizelos tells Kerry he is deeply dissapointed by the US behaviour, and their chairmanship of the meeting. He says the US showed disrespect for the Interim Accord signed between Athens and Skopje, and that this event will make it harder to reach an agreement between the two countries in the United Nations”, Kathimerini reports about the letter.

The 1995 Interim Accord notes that an interim reference will be used to name Macedonia, but also obliges Greece not to block Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration, under the reference, an obligation Greece has violated since 2008. In his Kathimerini analysis, Siderios writes that Greece tried to change the way Macedonia is named, going through US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, but their request was refused. This led Greece to take the episode as an example of American pressure put on Athens, to finally have the two decades long name issue solved. But, the article published in the right wing Kathimerini broadsheet, also contains warning to the far left SYRIZA coalition, that it should be careful over the recent initiative for confidence building measures between Macedonia and Greece. Speaking at an informal meeting in Riga ten days ago, Poposki and the new Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, discussed the idea for a set of still unspecified measures that would show the two countries can cooperate.

Kathimerini joins a list of Greek media outlets who have speculated that Germany is behind this initiative, and it is part of the recent increase in German interest for the Balkans. Last Summer, Chancellor Angela Merkel had Balkan leaders in Berlin to ask them to solve remaining issues and work on joint projects that would be supported by the European Union.

Kathimerini says that the idea for such confidence building measures between Macedonia and Greece, also has the support of Brussels and Washington. The paper warns the Greek Government to be careful over the reaction it might face, if it possibly allows Macedonia to open accession negotiations with the European Union.