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Kathimerini newspaper: Northern Macedonia faces Bulgarian dreams of a “Greater Bulgaria”

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We need to pay special attention to global and regional development so that we can soberly and calmly identify the changes, opportunities and strategic difficulties that arise, Nikos Kotsias wrote for Kathimerini.

The defeat of the United States in Afghanistan has given the impression among many leaders in our region that they can express their revisionist tendencies much more easily, as the risk of the US military machine stopping them is much lower than it was 20 years ago.

The most obvious discrepancy is in Bosnia. On the one hand, Republika Srpska is seeking to increase its autonomy vis-à-vis the central Bosnian state, and on the other, Croats are showing that they no longer want to feel dominated by the Muslim community, as has been the case so far. Similarly, there is increased agitation from those seeking Serb autonomy from Kosovo.

These differences are accompanied by strong nationalist tendencies in most countries in the region. There is a clear danger that Kosovo-Serb relations will heat up, as the former do not comply with agreements with Serb municipalities, while the latter refuse to acknowledge the reality of the situation on the ground.

Bulgarian nationalism is even stronger, with dreams of a “Greater Bulgaria”. The interesting aspect here is that extreme nationalist groups in Greece support this movement, if only because it opposes the Prespe agreement. Nationalism also has a significant presence in Albania, as well as in groups in Croatia.

The European Union has a serious responsibility for these phenomena and the overall strengthening of the destabilizing factors in the region. Its leadership has failed, and it has abandoned its policy of integration in the Western Balkans, including the position that without the countries of the Western Balkans, the EU cannot be called a true geographical entity.

No alternative plan has been developed to deepen relations between the region and the EU or to provide financial support. Furthermore, EU Member States in South East Europe show no real interest or concern, while the Greek government seems unable to deal with influential policies for the region. It is limited to advertising stunts.

Political developments in the region, along with domestic political issues, led to the resignation of Northern Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (Zaev, who resigned due to poor results in local elections last month, later said he would remain in office until the political situation stabilizes). The main reason for his reaction, however, is that the EU has not kept any of its promises and has proved incapable of the region’s demanding geopolitical issues.

Zaev made difficult compromises with Greece to give his people positive European prospects. Perspectives that suppress and subdue Slavic-Macedonian nationalism, a force that opposes any decision on the name of Northern Macedonia.

In addition, Northern Macedonia’s accession to the EU would allow the Albanian minority to coexist in a broader institutional framework, something that would limit internal struggles between the two largest communities and hamper plans for a “Greater Albania”.

Unfortunately, the Greek government continues to watch these events with apathy. He did not make any significant moves to counter the inertia shown by the EU and these “larger nationalist” schemes in the region.

All of the above has been facilitated by interventions in the region by aggressive players such as Turkey. Turkey, using political forces that depend on it, tried to contribute to the fall of Zaev.

The Greek government does not seem to fully understand the differences that exist between the Turkish-backed IMRO government and Zaev’s, which agreed to the Prespa agreement.

If nothing else, it seems to be mainly concerned with convincing everyone with media tricks that jumping up and down is proof of great and historical gestures. Unfortunately, as we all know, Greek foreign policy no longer has much weight, not that it did a few years ago.

The Greek government must immediately launch an international information campaign to share developments in the region and the dangers they pose, and to ask the European Union to resume accession talks with Albania and northern Macedonia.

He must do it because the Bulgarian veto is an apology, not the essence of the matter. Greece must also convince France, which is rightly pursuing institutional changes in the already enlarged EU, that accession talks with Albania and northern Macedonia can begin immediately, as the framework for completing the process will be second only to a reasonable time for institutional change. in the EU.

The Greek government must comply with the Prespa Agreement and its provisions (including joint institutional meetings and commissions). In particular, it must set up special commissions, such as those needed for trademarks and textbooks.

All indications are that the government does not seem to understand that there are obligations in the agreement that are not “deep desires” of Northern Macedonia. The leadership of Northern Macedonia will be pleased to see any lack of political will on the part of the agreement, especially those that are not their choice.

The Greek government must record and expose to the UN all violations of the agreement by members of the IMRO and members of the party. The use of the illegal name “Republic of Macedonia” by eight newly elected mayors should not be underestimated.

Some reckless people in Athens need to realize that the fact that nationalist forces in northern Macedonia did not want the Prespa agreement and led Zaev to resign is a sign that the deal is anything but “betrayal” on our part. If it were, they would be the ones fiercely guarding the deal.

Athens has yet to ratify three outstanding memoranda with northern Macedonia. The government must present them to the Chamber as soon as possible. The opposition must be held accountable and, given the growing signs of destabilization in the region, must not address this issue in the hope of gaining a tactical advantage.

On the contrary, it should contribute to promoting the implementation of the Prespa Agreement in order to avoid the strengthening of more aggressive forces in the region.

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