Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute

Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute

Cheryl Sanders
June 13, 2018

Greece and Macedonia have reached a historic agreement to end a 27-year name dispute that had kept the smaller, younger country out of worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reached an agreement with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in acknowledgement of the Greek region of Macedonia across the border.

"There is an agreement". We have a historic solution after two and a half decades.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials have welcomed a deal between Greece and Macedonia resolving a decades-long dispute over the Balkan country's name.

Greece is to ratify the deal in parliament after Macedonia has made the necessary changes to its constitution, Tsipras said.

"By solving the name question, we're becoming a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", he added.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his support for the agreement: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible".

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

"The name [will be] the Republic of North Macedonia translated into all languages for general use", Zaev said, as aired by the Macedonian TV channels.

Greek media previously reported today that Zaev is going to talk with Tsipras and confirm the agreement that they accomplished earlier today.

Tsipras says the name would be used by the country both domestically and internationally.

"We should serve the citizens and that is why we need to improve Macedonia in all aspects".

He is close to the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party which was defeated by Zaev in elections past year.

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

Mr Tsipras said the deal dictates "a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours".

Athens and Skopje had been racing to agree the outline of a settlement before an European Union summit in late June, though any accord would need to clear a referendum in Macedonia and win approval from politicians in both countries.

"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.

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

Greece argued that by calling itself Republic of Macedonia the neighboring country was stating a territorial claim of the Greek northern province, also called Macedonia.

Greece had long demanded that Macedonia change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

The compromises to resolve the name issue have faced dissent in both countries, threatening to split Greece's governing coalition and provoke a rift between Macedonia's prime minister and president.

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