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The Balkans: Did The Prespa Agreement Open Up Pandora’s Box?

The Balkans: Did The Prespa Agreement Open Up Pandora’s Box?
The Prespa Agreement that was signed last summer between Macedonia and Greece over changing the former’s name seems to have opened up Pandora’s Box and is provoking regional destabilization.

The Macedonian parliament passed an amendment earlier this month renaming the country as the so-called "Republic of North Macedonia" following accusations that the ruling party bribed and coerced various legislators to go along with it. In what was likely a quid-pro-quo with the minority Albanian representatives, the parliament also passed another law soon thereafter making Albanian an official language, though President Ivanov didn't sign off on either proposal and claims that both moves are illegal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the legitimacy of the name change process, suggesting that it might be part of a plot to facilitate the landlocked country's entry into NATO.

He has a valid point too because Macedonia will be fast-tracked into the military bloc if Athens approves of the agreement, though therein lies the bone of contention because many Greeks are adamantly opposed to the deal because they regard it as a sell-out of their national heritage. Large-scale but peaceful protests over the weekend were violently broken up by police and masked provocateurs, injuring a Sputnik stringer and many others who were caught up in the fracas. Tsipras' government also narrowly survived a vote of no confidence earlier this month as well, though there are fears that it might collapse if it moves any closer towards certifying the deal.

All of this renewed — and some might cynically say, preplanned and deliberately weaponized — destabilization is occurring at a very sensitive moment for the Balkans.

The specter of so-called "Greater Albania" looms larger than ever after Macedonia's controversial language law was just passed, while Turkey continues breathing down Greece's neck in the eastern Aegean. Asymmetrical and conventional threats abound, and both countries' governments are under serious pressure by patriotic protesters who oppose the Prespa Agreement but are being maligned as "Russian agents" as part of an international disinformation campaign meant to delegitimize their views. All the while, former British diplomat Timothy Less' explosive late-2016 proposal to re-divide the Balkans along ethnic lines continues to gain support in various sectors and might be facilitated by the latest developments.

The prevailing uncertainty in the region that was brought about by the Prespa Agreement worryingly makes it seem like Pandora's Box is reopening and that the Balkans are bound to remain a tinderbox.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Dr. Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., an independent journalist based in Athens, producer and host of Dialogos Radio, communications faculty at the American College of Greece and Marija Kotovska, Macedonian journalist who previously worked as a long-time correspondent in Athens.

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