SARAJEVO – “I think that the Prespa Agreement is a historic event for two reasons – first, the dispute between Greece and Macedonia has lasted for almost 30 years, and second, it was one of the rare negotiations mostly lead without the third parties”, said professor of Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz and coordinator of the BiEPAG group Florian Bieber for AlJazeera Balkans on Saturday.
According to him, the fact that the countries have reached the Agreement on their own shows a level of maturity which is rare in the region when it comes to the identity-based conflict.
The ratification of the Agreement in Greek Parliament will not require a two-thirds majority as was the case in Macedonia, but only a simple one (50% +1), Bieber reminded. He expects that some opposition MPs will also vote in favour, which should prove itself to be enough.
“All signals so far have shown that [the Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras will achieve the required majority”, he stated.
A day after his assessment, junior partner of the ruling coalition, Independent Greeks, lead by Panos Kammenos, until recently the Minister of Defense, revoked its support for the Government. Prime Minister Tsipras has called for a vote of confidence, which is set to take place on Wednesday, 16 January.
Even though the ruling Syriza on its own has only 145 of the required 151 votes, it is expected that some opposition members will support the Government and the ratification of the agreement. According to Europe Elects’ projection, Tsipras will barely survive the vote.
Doors now opened for Macedonia, but the Government still responsible for reforms
Provided that the process is successfully finalised, Bieber believes it will have a significantly positive influence on Macedonia’s EU accession process.
“I think that one of the main obstacles for Euro-Atlantic integrations of Macedonia was the dispute with Greece. That does not mean that the memberships will come automatically, just that all other reform efforts would not have lead to EU and NATO without solving this dispute. Doors are now opened for Macedonia, but the Government is still responsible for implementing the required reforms”, explained Bieber.
He added that it will also depend on EU’s readiness to offer Macedonia a quicker accession process. It would be an encouraging signal.
Asked to comment on the difficulty of solving identity issues in the region, Bieber emphasised that they are often seen as zero-sum games, but that new authorities in Macedonia and Greece have shown readiness to change that. “Of course, Greece has a lower motivation, because it also has less to get out of it”, he said.
As for the impact of the Agreement on other regional disputes, Bieber underlined that it represents a model, especially for normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
“Prespa Agreement is based on a good will of both sides and entails much more than mere name change. We have heard many positive messages from Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers – it has not been the case of ‘let’s just solve that problem and continue hating the other side’ which can be heard from Serbia and Kosovo”, he stated.
The message of Prespa Agreement is much more positive, and shows that the regional problems should be solved in a more positive environment, he concluded.