• Thursday, 18 July 2024

Prespa Agreement, before and after, in focus of international conference in Athens

Prespa Agreement, before and after, in focus of international conference in Athens

Athens, 17 June 2024 (MIA) – The benefits of the Prespa Agreement, both for the two countries and for the wider region, the negotiations leading up to the agreement, the implementation by both Skopje and Athens, the positions of New Democracy and VMRO-DPMNE, as well as the country’s EU perspective, were some of the topics in the focus of the two panels held as part of the International Conference for Peace and Sustainable Growth in Athens, organized by the "Alexis Tsipras Institute" and the "Zaev Foundation", MIA’s Athens correspondent reports.

Former premiers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev took part in one of the panel discussions, and the name talks mediator Matthew Nimetz and former foreign ministers Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias participated in the other.

On the sidelines of the conference, Tsipras and Zaev presented the Prespa Peace Award to the UN special envoy in the negotiations, Matthew Nimetz, for his contribution to the Prespa Agreement, while UN Secretary General António Guterres addressed the event via video message.

Former prime minister Zoran Zaev told the old legend about Lake Prespa, the story of a girl named Prespa who fell in love, noting that unlike the legend that was invented, "our agreement is a beautiful reality". He mentioned the peace prizes he and Tsipras received and the nomination for the Nobel Prize.

"The greatest prize is peace itself," Zaev pointed out. 

As regards the current situation after the change of government in the country, he sent messages to the next prime minister Hristijan Mickoski and to the current Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Zaev said Mickoski has confirmed so far that he will respect the agreement, he will use the name in written form, "but he has not confirmed that he will use the constitutional name in spoken language".

He added that without using the constitutional name, he would violate the country's Constitution and the international law, and called on him to demonstrate leadership.

On the other hand, Zaev said that if Mitsotakis really supports North Macedonia's European path, for which he has fought in the past, then he should ratify the three memoranda, one of which refers precisely to the EU perspective, and he stressed that in essence, in practice, they are implemented, but the Greek Prime Minister "does not put them up for a vote".

Tsipras also mentioned the memoranda and called on the Greek Government to ratify them. As regards whether the agreement provides for guarantees in case of non-compliance, he said the guarantees themselves are already included.

"The wisdom of the agreement is that the essential guarantees are included in the agreement from the beginning," Tsipras said, noting that the first guarantee is the change of the Constitution, the second is the European future, which also comes with European funds, NATO membership, and the last is the provision of the United States, which even includes individual sanctions for those who will not comply with the agreement. 

In addition, he expressed hope that the new prime minister of North Macedonia will respect the agreement and adjust to the reality that the name of the country is North Macedonia.

Tsipras revealed that the idea to sign the agreement in the Prespa region has been his idea, because "Prespa is a place that was synonymous with civil war - synonymous with war and hatred, and now, after the agreement, Prespa will not symbolize war, but peace".

Commenting on the momentum for the solution, the former Greek prime minister said it has been a fortunate opportunity with progressive governments in the two countries.

He pointed out that if the issue had not been resolved at the time, there might have been pressure on Greece for membership in NATO under the name of Macedonia.

Nimetz, Dimitrov and Kotzias spoke about the negotiations leading up to the agreement, and the name talks mediator pointed out that he had devoted most of his 20-year career to listening to the parties, and in the run-up to the Prespa Agreement, the most important thing has been the process, i.e. the building of trust between the two parties. He said that it is a compromise, and compromises are difficult, but the solution is important for both countries and the entire region, and called on everyone to respect it.

Former foreign minister Dimitrov also commented on the trust between the two parties of the agreement, noting that at the beginning of the talks, the emphasis has been placed on "building trust and stepping into the other's shoes, taking into account the problems and circumstances of the other party."

"The Prespa Agreement is a win-win for Greece, for North Macedonia, as well as for the Balkans, for Europe and for the new generations," Dimitrov pointed out, adding that at the moment the two sides must not engage in a "game of mutual accusations" given that "for the first time now we have two political forces in both countries that criticized the agreement". 

Former Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, compared the Prespa Agreement to a baby in need of care, and criticized the current Greek Government for not continuing the "positive agenda of Prespa", noting that Mitsotakis has not visited Skopje for the five years he has been in power, there has been no meeting between the governments, there has been no cooperation between the ministries, between the civil sector.

He also criticized the European Union, saying that "it was not fair to this country." 

"The solution is easy, the Greek Government can tell the Bulgarian Government that they will not vote for entry in the Schengen zone, if they do not remove the veto for North Macedonia," said Kotzias.

He added that opening North Macedonia's European path will open the path to peace, stability and security in the region, as well as the EU perspective for the rest of the Western Balkan countries. 

Day one of the International Conference for Peace and Sustainable Growth in Athens, organized by the "Alexis Tsipras Institute" and the "Zaev Foundation", saw the attendance of almost the entire parliamentary group of SYRIZA, members and supporters of the party, and the panel of Zaev and Tsipras was also attended by the leader of the party as well as representatives of the New Left and PASOK.

The attendance of Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou at the international conference in Athens has been announced for Tuesday. 

Photo: MIA