Macedonia reaches name change deal with Greece

13 June, 2018, 19:25 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Macedonia will change its name after 27-year argument with Greece

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

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev said the former Yugoslav republic's new name for both domestic and worldwide purposes would be Republic of North Macedonia. The name-change is an effort to prevent territorial claims to Greece's northern region of Macedonia.

The prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece agreed that it would be known as the "Republic of Northern Macedonia" if the proposal receives the necessary approvals from Macedonia's lawmakers and voters.

The solution to the dispute opens the door for the European Union summit on 28-29 June to decide to greenlight the start of accession talks with the Republic of North Macedonia, and for the NATO summit on 11-12 July to extend a membership invitation.

After a long and thorough diplomatic process, both sides have come to an agreement to the name Republic of North Macedonia or Severna Makedonija, in Macedonian.

Macedonia was a republic under the former Yugoslavia and initially lacked state identity. So even the countries that have recognized the small Balkan country as Macedonia will have to adapt the new name.

Skopje hopes that with a solution in hand, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will extend an invitation to join and the European Union will allow the start of Macedonian accession talks as early as this summer.

However, the accord still requires ratification by the two national parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia.

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The issue has been heated, and one with very real repercussions for Macedonia: It hasn't been able to join the European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation because Greece opposed its name.

In a nutshell, Greek people felt like the name belonged to them because it ties in with the country's heritage and the Macedon Kingdom - the king of which was Alexander the Great, who you'll have heard of. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The BBC reports that the new name "will now need to be approved by the Macedonian people and Greek parliament".

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.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said would help to consolidate regional peace and stability. "And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans".

Changes in Skopje became possible only after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of EPP-supported VMRO-DPMNE was replaced by the social-democrat Zoran Zaev. Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

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.

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