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news 24 Sep 15

Macedonia Nowhere on New Greek Govt Agenda

After a resounding win in Sunday's election for Greece's leftist-led government, no major breakthrough is expected in the 'name' dispute with Macedonia.

Sofia Papadopoulou
BIRN
Athens
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras | Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Greece’s new government, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Wednesday following Syriza’s comfortable re-election on Sunday.

“Our aim is to implement the [bailout] agreement in a way that is fair,” deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis said before the ceremony.

It took two elections and a referendum for Greek Prime Minister Tsipras to begin the real hard work of implementing a wide range of politically toxic austerity measures.

After countless bruising encounters with European creditors, the new team will have to start implementing what was agreed with creditors and to move fast on a set of reforms to unlock a new tranche of aid under the 86-billion-euro bailout deal.

In foreign policy, although Greece faces many pressing issues, analysts says that the migrant crisis and the economic problems leave little room for other problems.

“Balkan countries are looking with a negative eye Greece's handling of the migrants and blame Athens for being inundated with people trying to reach other European countries,” Stavros Tzimas, a Balkan expert for Greece's “Kathimerini” newspaper told BIRN.

One item that will have to feature on Greece's foreign policy agenda is Cyprus, with a new plan forthe divided island expected at the beginning of next year.

No major development is in sight in terms of the name dispute with neighbouring Macedonia, however.

Greece long ago set its red lines concerning the name dispute with Macedonia and no major breakthrough is expected for the time being.

Greece objects to Macedonia's name, insisting it implies territorial pretensions to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Macedonians have antagonised Greeks meanwhile by covering their capital city in momuments to figures from Classical Antiquity and who Greeks see as part of Hellenic heritage.

"The first step should be implementation of the confidence building measures agreed last June by Foreign Minister Kotzias and his counterpart [in Macedonia],"a diplomatic source told BIRN.

Bank recapitalization, debt talks, privatization fund, labor market and pension reform and taxation are only few of the difficult policy areas that the new government will have to deal with.

"The course will be difficult, but we have time for planning," Dragasakis said on leaving the Presidential mansion after the swearing-in ceremony of the new government.

Syriza has again decided to share rule in the country with far-right Independent Greeks, a political marriage that although expected still raises a number of question and dilemmas.


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Background

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Macedonia-Greece Name Dispute: What’s in a name?

Ever since Macedonia gained independence in 1991, its name has been the subject of a bitter dispute with southern neighbor, Greece.

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