Greece’s leftist Syriza government and centrist Potami have accused the main opposition party, the conservative New Democracy (European People’s Party-EPP), of “censoring” EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber during his election campaign launch in Athens this week.
Syriza said New Democracy had obscured Weber’s statement that “Europe welcomed the North Macedonia deal,” in a recent press release.
New Democracy has firmly opposed the name change deal, the Prespa Agreement, recently reached between Athens and Skopje, while all EU governments have been quite supportive, as well as the EPP, New Democracy’s political home in the EU.
Asked by journalists about the North Macedonia deal, Weber replied: “Europe welcomes the deal” and added that the “internal discussion over the issue in Greece should be respected”.
However, Greek media reported that in its press release, New Democracy had completely obscured the first part and elaborated the second to the point where its meaning was distorted.
“Asked about the Prespa Agreement, Weber said we should treat with respect the concerns and feelings of the citizens of Thessaloniki, referring essentially to entire northern Greece,” the New Democracy statement said.
This prompted a reaction from the Syriza government and from centrist Potami, who both criticised the Greek conservative party.
“If New Democracy has reached the point of censoring even Weber, we understand how isolated it is all over Europe. And of course, with such nonsense, it is ridiculed once more in the eyes of the international public opinion,” Syriza said.
Katerina Bakoyianni, a Potami spokesperson, said New Democracy had been exposed.
“It is obvious that Mr Weber’s welcome for the agreement is far from words such as ‘crime’ and ‘betrayal’ that New Democracy continues using for the Prespa Agreement,” she said.
During the negotiations, the EPP officially supported a solution to the long-standing name dispute between the two countries. However, Weber himself attempted to keep his distance in order not to put in a difficult position New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
From his part, Mitsotakis was among the centre-right politicians who endorsed Weber to run as the EPP candidate in the EU elections in May.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]