By Nikos Fragopoulos of the daily Skopje News
Meetings with the Prime Minister of fYROMacedonia Zoran Zayev, the country’s President Gjorge Ivanov, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and Mayor of Skopje Petre Silegov, had yesterday in Skopje the mayor of Thessaloniki Yannis Boutaris.
At the heart of the meetings were the opportunities for cooperation that open between Thessaloniki and Skopje.
During his one-day visit, the mayor of Thessaloniki met with the Prime Minister of fYROMacedonia, Zoran Zaev
After the meeting, Boutaris suggested that the eight municipalities of the Thessaloniki city complex should cooperate with the municipalities of fYROMacedonia, in order to develop cooperation in specific areas such as social policy and waste management.
“We are not politicians and we are not making politics, but we are trying to improve relations between the cities. Improving transnational relations is easier to do from the bottom up. And by improving relations, solutions to various issues can be easily addressed”, Boutaris said.
The mayor of Thessaloniki also suggested that the two cities should cooperate on the wine roads and organize an annual bilateral cultural festival, which will be held alternately, while he put forward a collaboration between Arctouros and NGOs in fYROMacedonia for the protection of wildlife.
There was also discussion on the organization of a rowing regatta, with seven crews, in late April and early May, which will start from Skopje and arrive in Thessaloniki.
Prime Minister of fYROMacedonia said that meetings with the mayor of Thessaloniki, Yannis Boutaris, are always welcome and that discussions with him are always friendly and open and help to bring together the citizens of the two countries and to intensify their communication in many areas.
During the joint press conference with the mayor of Thessaloniki, Zaev also referred to the name issue.
Asked if the name issue would be resolved in 2018, Zavev said he did not want to enter into details, as the talks are still at a premature stage.
He added that his government “paves the way for a solution through the establishment of friendly relations with all our neighbouring countries”, including Greece.
“There is a friendly atmosphere and a positive climate”, Zaev said, while asked whether he insists on holding a referendum, he replied that the issue of the name will be solved together with the opposition, the parliament and the country’s President, and added that in any case the citizens will be consulted.
Boutaris invited Zaev to visit Thessaloniki
Yiannis Boutaris urged Zaev to visit Thessaloniki privately on New Year’s Eve, an invitation which the PM of fYROMacedonia accepted heartily.
“I will consider it seriously, perhaps I will spend New Year’s Day with the mayor of Thessaloniki and the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras”, Zaev said.
The mayor of Thessaloniki said he sincerely hopes that his city will soon be the place where the prime ministers of the two countries will meet.
Speaking in English, he told reporters that he proposed “the next meeting of the two prime ministers, of Greece and Macedonia, to be held in Thessaloniki”. Boutari’s reference to fYROMacedonia as “Macedonia” was particularly highlighted by the Skopje media, which comment that “the mayor of Thessaloniki calls us Macedonia”.
President of fYROMacedonia Gjorgj Ivanov said at a meeting with the mayor of Thessaloniki that despite the open issue of the name, cooperation between the societies of Greece and FYROM is at an enviable level and there is need for further upgrading.
Ivanov also emphasised the deepening of economic cooperation and the harmonization of the legal framework for the business communities of the two countries, as well as the interconnection of infrastructure through the revitalization of the railway network and the opening of new border crossings./IBNA