EU socialists scold EPP over Macedonian name deal, disregard own black sheep member

PES President Sergei Stanishev [L] with S&D leader Udo Bullmann [R] at a PES summit in Sofia (May). [Sarantis Michalopoulos]

The Socialists and Democrats group (S&D) continue to criticise the negative stance of center-right opposition parties in Athens and Skopje towards the landmark name deal but also turn a blind eye to their member party in Greece, which disapproves of it.

Following a speech by the prime minister of the former Yugoslav republic, Zoran Zaev, yesterday (13 September) in the European Parliament, S&D leader Udo Bullmann expressed his full support to the agreement and praised Zaev and Greek premier Alexis Tsipras.

Ahead of a crucial referendum to ratify the name deal on 30 September in Skopje, Bullmann urged the center-right opposition parties in both countries to show responsibility.

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“We call on the political opposition from the EPP parties in both countries to demonstrate responsibility and to support the agreement,” Bullmann said.

“It will not only unlock the Euro-Atlantic perspective for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia but also will help to consolidate peace and stability in the country as well as in the region,” he added.

FYROM’s VMRO-DPMNE and Greece’s New Democracy parties, both affiliated with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), oppose the agreement to rename the country as the “Republic of North Macedonia”.

Problematic Pasok

But in Greece, New Democracy is not the only party that expressed its opposition to the name deal. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), which is affiliated with Bullmann’s political family, has also reacted negatively.

The disagreement on the name deal was the reason behind the break-up of the “Movement of Change”, an alliance to unite fragmented centre-left forces in the country.

Greek media reported that Pasok leader Fofi Gennimata insisted on opposing the deal, while the majority of the other parties were in favour. This led the centrist Potami party to abandon the alliance.

EURACTIV.com contacted Bullmann and asked if he tried to convince Pasok to “show responsibility” as was the case with the EPP opposition parties.

Bullmann replied that the issue was “intensively” discussed in the group and a “huge majority supports the achievements”.

“As in every democratic process of decision-making we respect if there are divergent opinions,” he noted.

EURACTIV also contacted the office of Sergei Stanishev, the President of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Stanishev is a vocal supporter of the agreement and at a PES summit in Sofia (17 May), which Tsipras attended but not Gennimata, he pointed out that “only progressive leaders could do it”.

In an emailed response, PES said it has made its position clear on the issue calling on all its member parties to back the deal.

“No meetings or comments on the issue have been made in the meantime,” Stanishev’s office said.

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The President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), Sergei Stanishev, praised on  Wednesday (16 May) the efforts by Athens and Skopje to resolve the long-standing name dispute and urged them to show “leadership” against nationalistic trends.

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