Where do you belong? The mysteries of Prespes for businesses.

05 July 2018

Article by Andreas Papamimikos at for the problems caused by the agreement with Fyrom for Greek businesses

The “Prespes Agreement” and in general foreign policy agreements and major national issues cannot be judges solely on the basis of bidding and auction. Besides, it has been shown many times in the past that these approaches are ineffective and more importantly, divisive and can cause damage to the country.

These agreements must always be judged with composure and realism and, above all, must be considered on the basis of their results. In this context, the conclusion on this agreement is that instead of addressing issues, on the contrary it creates new short-term and long-term problems for the country and its interests. Mainly, I believe that it does not guarantee the most important thing, which is the elimination of irredentism.

I will not attempt a comprehensive approach to the problems raised by the agreement at this point. They have been recorded. However, I will focus on the fact that it causes a series of problems in the everyday lives of citizens adding more problems to the operation of businesses; problems that will soon materialize. I refer to magnitude of the impact of the Greece – Skopje agreement on the trade names, trademarks and the businesses under the name “Macedonia”. In Article 3 paragraph 8 of Part I, the agreement provides for the establishment of an international panel of experts to be set up within 2019 which will complete its work within three years, regulating the framework of intellectual property rights between the two countries, while the use of these rights will remain unaffected until then.

In this blurred landscape, the Foreign Ministry’s General Secretary of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ioannis Brachos, who is in charge of the technical team from the Greek side and will regulate the issues of the bilateral economic relations, participated in an event which was held at Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBETH) with the co-organization of Association of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE) and the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEVE) for the issue of “Economic Diplomacy Actions 2017-2018” .There he stated in that the use of the words “Macedonia” and “Macedonian” by businesses in Greece or the neighboring country will not encounter problems as inscriptions to indicate which Macedonia is referred will be added.

But then why a three-year committee is needed? Unfortunately, the issue is not simple as it is presented. Such a “solution” is against Greece and against all the European and international rules of ensuring rights, as it violates the inalienable principle that a copyright (trademark, the name of a company, the brand name) should not be visually or acoustically similar to an earlier protected right. Consequently, will the government prefer a solution with the help of its representatives in this special group that would offend the inalienable principle of business? And under this aspect, will it be possible to have two Universities of “Macedonia”, two airports “Macedonia” and so on, with only one difference, their different marking?

This “solution” also violates a basic rule regarding registrations: that of time priority. Based on the European and international rules, the right which precedes time over another is protected. Moreover, in the majority of the cases, Greek entrepreneurs hold copyrights previously protected by those of Skopje enterprises and institutions, both on a national and a European level.

However, what will be true regarding new brand names, new brands and businesses? What will be the framework for the use of the term “Macedonia” for the two countries during the three-year working period of the International Panel of Experts and until the outcome of their work? Unfortunately no provision for this issue exists.

Another issue emerging from this agreement is that through non-regulation it is possible to secure rights when the term “Macedonia” in both countries. Therefore, successful Greek companies will be called upon to confront the usurpation of their dynamic brands by the corresponding products of Skopje, which are clearly of smaller entrepreneurial and historical power.

At the time I was writing this article noting questions that arise, Mr Zaef anwered at the agency MIA that “state organizations will obey the principle of the agreement and the new name. All the other organizations, associations, and companies can use the adjective “Macedonian” both in the country and anywhere in the world. For example, “Macedonian culture”” expressing the worst version for us as a country. He also mentioned something about the Macedonian identity on behalf of Skopje and “of the geographic area of the Macedonia on the Greek side”.

It is clear that the relinquishment of our established international rights favors certain parts of the involved parties. The only legally acceptable solution is the complete alignment of Skopje with European and international rules, in the context of an agreement according to which the righter holds the right as his/her right precedes the right of the other counterpart. For this reason, all Greek companies have the term “Macedonia” or its derivatives in their distinctive features and have not proceeded to pledge procedures it would be advisable to expedite them.

From the extent of the problems from an economic and business aspect, anyone can understand the magnitude of the new problems arising from the “Prespes agreement”. That is why I do not understand those who sympathize with deal just because “it hat be done at some point”. I disagree not only with the outcome of the agreement, but also with the timing and the handling of such an important national issue. Decisions such as these far outweigh the temporary relations between governments, or the pursuit of temporary political benefits. The national horizon may not be restricted by shortsighted micro parties and conveniences. Time in such cases is not “old father time”…