The head of the right-wing coalition partner in the current Tsipras government, who also holds the defense portfolio, on Thursday appeared to dramatically "up the ante" ahead of a resumption of what, by all accounts, appears to be the most substantive talks to solve the "fYRoM name issue" in years.
Minister Panos Kammenos, who founded and heads the rightist-populist Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party after being expelled by center-right New Democracy (ND) in 2012, spoke at a national council meeting of his small party.
"Macedonia is one and is Greek, just as described by Constantine Karamanlis. We will not give away the Greek name Macedonia," he said, referring to ND's founder, late Greek statesman Constantine Karamanlis.
In delineating a more hard-line position than the one agreed to by practically all Greek political leaders in 2008, Kammenos said there "are Slavic terms (place names), such as Vardarska, that can be used, and which do not include the name Macedonia, and which we accept; no 'new', nor 'upper' Macedonia," he said.
Although Kammenos' party barely surpassed the 3-percent threshold for entering Greece's Parliament in the September 2015 snap election, and has a very marginal presence in Greek society, it nevertheless props up the radical leftist SYRIZA-dominated government, as the junior partner in the "strange bedfellows" coalition. Without the support of the nine AN.EL deputies in Parliament, Alexis Tsipras' leftists would be without a majority in the 300-MP legislature, with the most likely scenario being the government's resignation and a snap election. With all mainstream opinion polls giving ND a double-digit percentage point lead over SYRIZA, the prospect of an election in the near future is anathema to Tsipras and his party.
However, Kammenos and his eight deputies also appear loath to causing the government's collapse, as the same opinion polls show them nowhere near 3 percent of the general vote in an election.
While on the one hand expressing his absolute opposition to the word "Macedonia" in any future "name solution", the outspoken political leader said he has complete confidence in Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, whereas if his party objects to a "name" proposal he'll then ask the Greek president to convene a meeting of political party leaders.
Athens' standing position since 2008 has been to seek and support a "name solution" that involves a composite name for the neighboring country with a geographic qualifier before the name "Macedonia", and which will apply in all uses and venues.
The provisional name, i.e. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in fact, includes the very name Kammenos now opposes. While recognized as such by Greece and various international bodies (EU, UN, NATO etc), numerous countries recognize the one-time Yugoslav constituent state as "Republic of Macedonia", the constitutional name that the latter insists upon.