The three years that lead to the Agreement with fYROMacedonia

The three years that lead to the Agreement with fYROMacedonia

Most ordinary citizens, journalists and politicians have the wrong impression that the Agreement with fYROMacedonia  has been the result of “hasty” talks over the last six months.

From the Greek side, the information gap is logical, as in the early years of Greece’s governance by the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition, the dominant issue was the economy and the country’s stay or not in the Eurozone and the EU.

Very few were those who closely followed the moves of Greek diplomacy and those of (Greek) Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias. The media coverage in Greece was minimal, since on the one hand we had the financial crisis in the press and on the other hand the government’s “sponsorship” to journalists was stopped by covering their expenses for assignments abroad.

The lack of information on the part of the media and their selective indifference to foreign policy, related to the “big” countries, has normally created gaps in information and news the public received.

Nikos Kotzias, after his travels to Russia and the U.S. in April 2015, begins his contacts with the countries of the Western Balkans, and made two trips in June and July, visiting fYROMacedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro.

The message had been passed on. After years, Greece had been trying to rejoin the Western Balkans, strengthening its role in the region. Above all, however, Greece had to (re)gain the confidence of those countries that had open issues with it. In this context, Nikos Kotzias has done something that is not at all common with the Foreign Ministry administration.

In the countries of immediate interest, he visited both the state and political leadership of each country, discussing all the outstanding issues of bilateral relations.

Thus, beside his counterpart Nikola Poposki, Nikos Kotzias, at every visit to fYROMacedonia, met with President Gjorge Ivanov, the then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the then Opposition Officer and current Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the leader of the Albanian party, the DUI head Ali Ahmeti. No one was unknown to him and he did not expect Zoran Zaev to enter into power to build trust and co-operation relations with fYROMacedonia.

Similarly, in Albania too, Nikos Kotzias did not only meet with his counterpart Ditmir Bushati, but also with the then President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Edi Rama as well as the leaders of the two largest parties in Albania, Ilir Meta, the current President of the country and LSI leader, and Democratic Party leader, Lulzim Basha.

However, apart from the Greek Foreign Minister’s official visits to Albania and fYROMacedonia and the same visits to Kotzias by his counterparts, at every opportunity, during EU, UN or other international organisations’ meetings, there were almost always bilateral contacts and discussions about enhancing co-operation and resolving existing disputes.

At the same time, working groups were set up with both countries to resolve differences through collaborations and partnerships.

Three years of processes, discussions, partnerships and consultations have helped to overcome suspicion, to pave the way for resolving chronic conflicts.

Three years is the real time Greece needed to find a solution. Three years is a good time when you have the plan and the will to overcome any difficulties…. / IBNA