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Diaspora calls for referendum over Greece-FYROM name agreement

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) counterpart Zoran Zaev have made history, with the leaders coming to an agreement over a mutually acceptable name for FYROM, putting an end to a 27-year dispute between the neighbouring countries. Or so they thought.

The decision to change the name from FYROM to Republic of North Macedonia has sparked outrage across Greece and the diaspora, given that the name still includes a claim to ‘Macedonia’.

In response to the matter, the board of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA) has expressed its concerns on behalf of the Greek diaspora.

“It is apparent to the Board of WHIA that there is a strong general feeling within the Greek diaspora that any solution to the long-running name issue must not include the name Macedonia, as the use of such name would be a direct challenge to Hellenic history, would appropriate Greek symbols and potentially give rise to irredentist and hostile territorial claims,” said WHIA President Peter Katsambanis in an official statement.

Since the association was founded in 1996, made up of elected parliamentarians from around the world, its position on the name dispute has been clear in that the name be mutually agreed upon and acceptable to both Greece and FYROM.

The President and Member for Hillarys from Western Australia went on to say that since the agreement between the two PMs was announced, that there has been an overwhelming sense among the diaspora of “disappointment”, indicating that their views and those of the Greek public have not been considered.

To ensure that the Greek diaspora remains united in its continued support for Greece, the WHIA has proposed the idea of putting the final decision on the name to a referendum, for Greek citizens to have their say.

Mr Katsambanis said that it would be the “one solution that would ensure any agreement has the support of the Greek public”, and suggested that the same opportunity be given to citizens of FYROM.

The controversial agreement was signed on Sunday by Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov together with the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the name dispute during a signing ceremony in Prespes at the borders of Greece, FYROM and Albania.