Macedonia reaches name change deal with Greece

13 June, 2018, 11:30 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zeav addresses the media during a news conference in the Government building in Skopje Macedonia Tuesday

Macedonia has agreed to change its name to Northern Macedonia in order to end a decades-old row with Greece, which among other things prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev said the former Yugoslav republic's new name for both domestic and worldwide purposes would be Republic of North Macedonia.

"We don't agree and we won't vote for any deal including the name 'Macedonia, '" Panos Kammenos, Greek Defense Minister and head of the rightist Independent Greeks party, said.

Besides claiming it as part of its heritage, Greece also had a province bordering the new country with the same name and feared Skopje could harbour territorial ambitions.

Greece had also blocked the country from negotiating with the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Our agreement includes Republic of North Macedonia for overall use, ' Zaev told reporters in the capital Skopje.

It is now known formally at the United Nations under the interim name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

The name dispute has soured relations between the two neighbours at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

In a televised address, Tsipras said the 140 countries which had recognized the Balkan state simply as Macedonia would now recognize it as Republic of North Macedonia.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during a televised address to the nation in Athens after Greece and Macedonia reached an agreement Tuesday to end a bitter 27-year name dispute that had kept the smaller and younger country out of international
Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute

Apparently other names thrown into the pot included Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and Ilinden Macedonia. Both its language and people would continue to be known as Macedonian, he said.

Both Albania and Macedonia hope to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union.

'This historic agreement is testament to many years of patient diplomacy, and to the willingness of these two leaders to solve a dispute which has affected the region for too long, ' NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

Veteran United Nations diplomat Matthew Nimetz, who has been a mediator in the name dispute since 1994, hailed the "leadership, vision and determination" of the foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia, who have negotiated for months.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Macedonian and Greek parliaments.

Greece also demanded that Macedonia drops from its flag the rayed sun of Vergina, which it claimed was an ancient Greek symbol, as well as certain articles from its constitution.

"In essence, the (deal) is acceptance of all Greek positions", VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said.

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