Macedonia makes name change deal with Greece

Frederick Owens
June 13, 2018

Under the deal, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said his country would officially be called the "Republic of Northern Macedonia". We have a historic solution after two and a half decades.

The name dispute has poisoned relations between the two countries since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has prevented Macedonia from joining worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

He said: "We have a good agreement that covers all the preconditions the Greek side had set".

The party's leader Hristijan Mickoski said he would not support changes to the "constitutional name" of Macedonia.

The 27-year dispute has led to frequent disagreement and protests, but the two countries agreed on the new title of the former Yugoslav republic after months of intensive diplomacy. "Greece considers Macedonia a non-negotiable part of its history", explains NPR.

As a result, previous Greek governments have claimed that the Republic of Macedonia- tiny, impoverished and with virtually no military might - also has territorial designs on its province.

In a decades-old dispute, Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

In 2008, Macedonia presented itself as a candidate for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military alliance under the provisional name but again faced a Greek veto.

'This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership.

Zaev said resolving the long-standing issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev
GETTYThe tiny Balkan country has repeatedly tried to join both the EU and Nato

"I am encouraged by the dedication of both governments to deliver mutual benefits for all their citizens through the establishment of a strategic partnership as a basis for intensified cooperation across all sectors", he said in a statement.

However, passing the name "Northern Macedonia" through Greek parliament might turn out tricky as most parties previously rejected any kind of compromised on the issue.

"[Macedonia] can not and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilization of Macedonia".

Mr Zaev said the deal would be signed this weekend, and a voter referendum would be held in the fall.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras [left] and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev [right] in Sofia in May.

"The PES calls on all governments in the EU to prove that those who make hard decisions are rewarded and invite Skopje to start the accession negotiations with the European Union at the 28-29 June EU summit", he said.

As it happens, Greece also has a region called Macedonia.

"It will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans", he said.

Tsipras said that the agreement would specify that Macedonia's language is of Slavic origin.

Tsipras said in a televised statement that Macedonia's name change would allow a clear distinction between Greece's province of Macedonia and the neighbouring country.

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