Greeks kick off protests against Macedonia deal

ATHENS: Greeks opposed to a name deal with neighbouring Macedonia on Friday kicked off a three-day series of protests as lawmakers debated a censure vote against the government.
A few hundred people, including priests and lawmakers from neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, gathered in front of parliament to reject a proposal to call Greece’s northern neighbour the Republic of North Macedonia.
“Nobody can be called Macedonians except the Greeks,” protest organiser Michalis Patsikas told state agency ANA.
“History is written in blood,” read a banner held by a monk. “Skopje = Monkey-donia” said another.
The leaders of Greece and Macedonia are rumoured to be preparing a signature ceremony at the Prespes Lakes, on their mutual border, on Sunday morning.
The protesters plan to stay in front of parliament until Saturday while another demonstration will be held in Prespes on Sunday.
The main opposition conservative party has called a vote of censure against the government for Saturday.
Much of the criticism of the agreement in Greece has focused on the government’s acceptance that the neighbouring country’s language and ethnicity will be called “Macedonian”.
“If it is signed, no (future Greek) government will be able to deny it,” former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis told parliament on Friday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can count on at least 154 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber, enough to weather the motion.
The compromise has also caused uproar in Skopje, with the main opposition nationalist party opposed and the president determined to exercise a one-time veto option against it.
The agreement still needs to be approved by Macedonia’s parliament and pass a referendum there as well as being ratified by the Greek parliament, a process that will take months.
Skopje hopes to secure a date to begin European Union accession talks at an EU summit in late June and an invitation to join Nato in mid-July. — AFP