Politics

Angela’s Merkel visit to Greece

An effort to Ease chronic tensions in the Balkan region regarding the name dispute for the Macedonian Republic

January 22nd, 2019
Tina Bitouni, News from Berlin
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, Greece, January 2019.

Angela's Merkel visit to Athens on the 10th of January was the first to take place after almost 5 years and allegedly there has been no official announcement for the purposes of this travel. During her last visit in the Greek capital, the meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was mainly preoccupied with the austerity measures and the financial agreements to control the Greek bailout. However, this time it appears that her concern revolved more around the foreign policies in the Balkan region and especially regarding the long-standing dispute between Greece and the neighbouring country provisionally named as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Merkel's two-day stay in Athens was perceived to be an encouragement and support to Tsipras in his attempt to proceed to an agreement with his fellow Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. The name accord and the official conversion of the name's country into “Republic of Macedonia” is expected to foster stability, security and peace in the Balkan region. Moreover, the naming dispute has been the main obstacle that hinders the accession of the Republic of Macedonia into the European Union. The full membership of the Macedonian country into EU is pending as of September 2018 along with other countries of the Balkan peninsula, i.e. Albania, Serbia and Montenegro.

Political expectations for stability and hopes for a peaceful resolution and for stronger European alliances are attributed to the name accord between the two Balkan countries. However, this happens at the expense of the solidity in the interior of the Greek government and resulted in the waiver of its right-wing coalition partner “The Independent Greeks”. Their resignation reflects in the parliamentary scene public discontent and frustration on behalf of considerable amounts of the Greek population. Protesters who oppose the name agreement, demand for the term “Macedonia” to be dropped off the official title since it implies territorial aspiration and claims to the Norther Greek province of the same name. Last Sunday on January 20th, a rally organised by the opponents of the name accord in Syntagma square of Athens turned violent. It highlighted the urgent need for diplomatic relations and attentive political managements to ease the chronic tensions of latent and manifest nationalisms in the Balkan region.

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News from Berlin