The official visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to North Macedonia accompanied by ten cabinet members and some 140 Greek businessmen has been presented as “historic” by Maximos Mansion. The Greek government expressed its pleasure over the first official visit of a Greek Premier to the Balkan country after almost thirty years of constant disputes over its name.
However, many Greek commentators viewed the visit to Skopje as a pre-election show with little substance. Significantly, the Greek prime minister did not touch on the issues of trademarks and North Macedonia‘s violations of the Prespa Agreement in several respects.
“The citizens of Greece must understand that we, on our side, will fully implement the Agreement,” North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev pledged. He added that “we leave the past behind… and we start a journey into the future, with common opportunities and interests.”
Referring to the issue of trademarks, Zaev was somewhat vague. He said that the issue will be discussed by the pertinent bilateral committees so that a solution can be found in the next two to three years. It is unclear how the disputes over the “Macedonian” trademark will be handled now, and whether or not there will some type of arbitration.
Tsipras tried to dismiss the negative press on the issue, saying that Greece’s neighbor has been branding its products as “Macedonian” for thirty years. He also dismissed the Greek-Macedonians who oppose the Prespa agreement, but still do business in North Macedonia, calling them “hypocrites.”
However, there have already been instances showing that North Macedonia is not adhering to the requirements of the Prespa Agreement, with governmental agencies leaving the “North” part of the name out of the official name of the country.
According to a report in the Hellas Journal, there have already been several violations of the agreement with Greece, indicating that the Balkan country is not eager to abandon the use of just “Macedonia” as its official name.
The newly-amended constitution of the country has not been published yet, although it is a basic requirement of the Prespa Agreement. The Greek side has let that go so far.
In fact, the website for the “Parliament of Northern Macedonia” highlights the “Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia” in its old version, without incorporating the amendments adopted by the House, but never signed by President Gjorge Ivanov.
The Presidential website for the new Republic still refers to the “Republic of Macedonia,” and only last week President Ivanov gave an award to the Turkish state organization TIKA as the “Republic of Macedonia.”
On the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia there are references to “Macedonia Timeless” and “Exploring Macedonia,” and there is also a page on the site called “Invest in Macedonia.”
According to Hellas Journal, there is also the issue of virtual changes to the names of government services. The Macedonian Information Agency has been renamed, not based on the country’s new name, but rebranded as the “Media Information Agency” in order to preserve the acronym “MIA.” Yet still, the entity refers to itself on its website by the name “Macedonian Agency.”
Many organizations are now also using the term “National” as a replacement for “Macedonian” — thus indirectly maintaining the old name. The adjective “National” without reference to the State seemingly refers to “Macedonia.”
For instance, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle continues to be presented as the museum of the revolutionary tradition of “Macedonia and the Macedonian people.”
Outside the government-friendly media outlets, the Greek press expressed doubts over the significance of the Greek prime minister’s visit and the “High Cooperation Council” which is tasked with working between the two neighboring countries.
Most press reports stressed the perceived “traps” of the Prespa Agreement, arguing that Greece received nothing, while North Macedonia has gained access to NATO and the EU — while at the same time violating the accord with Greece.
They also delineated the problems companies operating in Greece’s region of Macedonia face, as the country’s northern neighbor has established the term “Macedonian” for its products.
There are 4,000 Greek Macedonian products currently on the market, and producers worry about their band name recognition and what the future may hold for them as they try to distinguish their products from those made in North Macedonia.
The Greek prime minister attributed the problems and worries of Macedonian producers to “fake news,” which was also criticized by the press and parties involved.