Macedonia reaches name change deal with Greece

Pauline Gross
June 13, 2018

Greek officials earlier said the list of potential names included "New Macedonia" and "Upper Macedonia", but after months of discussions "North Macedonia" was chosen.

Macedonia and Greece on Tuesday resolved a almost three-decade row by agreeing to call it the Republic of North Macedonia, as Skopje hailed a "historic solution" to a dispute which had blocked its bid to join the European Union and NATO.

Greece has argued since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 that the young country's name implied a claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia - the birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

The new name - which in Macedonian is Severna Makedonija - will be used both domestically and internationally, while Macedonia will also amend its constitution as part of the deal.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' government partner, said Tuesday he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote.

"There is no way back", Zaev told a news conference after a telephone conversation with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

But the breakthrough is now likely to see European Union leaders open accession talks with Macedonia at a summit in June and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invite Macedonia to join the military alliance at a summit in July.

"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.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement he had "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

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In 2001, Greece, the only country in the region with EU, NATO and eurozone membership, expressed support for Skopje, faced by an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels.

The next step, he said, is for the deal to be signed by the foreign ministries of both countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise - Republic of Northern Macedonia".

"The name change will be implemented not only the country's worldwide relations but also domestically", Tsipras said adding that Skopje would need to revise its constitution.

He also said it "secures the historic heritage of ancient Greek Macedonia" and promotes stability and cooperation in the Balkans, confirming Greece's role as pillar of peace, security and growth.

European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev.

Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said: "Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia".

"There is no way back", said Zaev.

In Greece, Tsipras' conservative rival Kyriakos Mitsotakis also denounced the deal as a "bad agreement".

Other reports by GizPress

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