By John Carr
German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew into Athens Thursday for a short visit that appears designed to pressure the Greek political establishment into approving a tension-reducing deal with neighbouring Macedonia.
There has been no official announcement about why Mrs Merkel is visiting, but the unanimous view here in Athens is that she’s concerned about the fate of last summer’s agreement between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Premier Zoran Zaev, and wants to see it ratified by the Greek Parliament as a step towards easing chronic Balkan tensions.
If the agreement is ratified in both Athens and Skopje, then the way is clear for Macedonia to join the EU and Nato, a key aim of Mrs Merkel’s policy.
But the road to ratification here in Athens is a rocky one. Tsipras’s junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, has vowed to walk out of the government if the deal is ratified. That would most likely trigger an early election. The opposition conservative New Democracy party also opposes the deal, with about 70 percent of Greek public opinion concurring.