ATHENS, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — Greece expects that there will be a positive answer in Sunday’s referendum in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on the Prespes agreement aimed to resolve the name issue between the two neighboring countries, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said on Saturday.
“For both countries, it means the end of a bitter argument that could have been positively solved in the 90s. Especially to FYROM, offers a clear way for its European prospects,” the Greek official told Greek national news agency AMNA.
“On the other side it is a positive message for the peace and stability in a region that was always Europe’s powder keg,” he added, expressing hope the participation in the referendum to be high and to leave no doubt on the result.
Following UN-mediated negotiations for years, the governments of Greece and FYROM reached a deal this June to put an end to the name row which had started in 1991.
Athens was worried that the use of the same name of a northern Greek province by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.
Under the agreement which was signed on June 17 by the two governments at Prespes lake which is the natural border between the two states, FYROM’s new name will be “Republic of North Macedonia“.
The name row was the main obstacle Skopje had to overcome to make progress towards European Union (EU) and NATO integration.
Although the two governments promote the deal, there are still many people in both countries opposing the agreement.
Katrougalos appeared confident that the agreement will be ratified by the Greek parliament when submitted. The time has yet not been announced, but according to government sources it will most likely be in early 2019.
Panos Kammenos, Greece’s defense minister and leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks party (ANEL), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, stated many times that his party will vote against the deal in the assembly.
Asked about this stance and scenarios of early elections, the deputy foreign minister said that in case ANEL decides to leave the coalition over this issue, the government will remain, because it still has the people’s mandate and this can change only if a motion of censure is tabled and is voted by the parliament’s majority.
The next general elections are scheduled for September 2019, when the government’s four year term in office expires, cabinet ministers have stressed.