Greek Deputy Prime Minister Visits Macedonia

 Greek Deputy Prime Minister, Evangelos Venizelos | Photo by: Council of the European Union

The Greek visit, taking place within the capacity of Greece’s EU presidency, is not expected to result in a breakthrough in the "name" dispute that has been poisoning relations for decades and blocking Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration.

Venizelos, who arrived from Kosovo on Wednesday, is to meet Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Fatmir Besimi as well as Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.

He will also meet Ali Ahmeti, head of the junior ruling ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, as well as the head of the main opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, Zoran Zaev.

“His visit won’t change a thing but it is good that he is arriving,” former Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said, recalling that the former Greek Foreign Minister avoided all visits to Macedonia.

Despite repeated recommendations by the European Commission, the EU has not started talks with Macedonia, nor has it been invited to join NATO, owing to the dispute with Greece over its name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

The visit of the senior Greek official comes as part of his tour of the region and is no more than a formality, Goran Ilic, political science professor at Bitola State University, said.

“Venizelos’s visit can only be treated as a visit of an official from an EU country that at the moment happens to be holding the EU presidency,” Ilic added.

He said the visit may even end up promoting the new Greek claim, which is that Macedonia has other, more serious, issues than the name dispute requiring resolution before EU...

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