Macedonia 'Name' Deal Faces Bumpy Ride Ahead

17 June, 2018, 11:58 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • President rejects renaming Macedonia amid protests

Macedonia's president has refused to sign a historic deal that would change the country's name.

Earlier, the President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov said that did not sign an agreement with Greece on renaming the country.

In Macedonia, implementation of the deal has to clear the hurdles of parliamentary ratification, a referendum in September and a constitutional amendment.

In Skopje, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov had said before the deal was announced that he opposed writing the new name into the constitution, a move meant to show the change is permanent and binding for domestic and global use.

"This agreement is unacceptable and I will not permit its legalisation", he said in a televised address, noting that Greece had got everything it had asked for, while Macedonia received nothing.

Athens has long objected to its northern neighbour's use of the name "Macedonia", saying it implies territorial claims on a northern Greek province of the same name and amounts to the appropriation of Greece's ancient cultural heritage. Hardliners on both sides are arguing that their prime ministers conceded too much to reach the deal.

Greece's Tsipras also faces opposition at home.

This would leave the left-wing prime minister dependent on support from political opponents to ratify the deal in parliament.

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In Macedonia's capital, Skopje, opponents of the name-change protested peacefully outside parliament for a second evening. The agreement, under which Macedonia will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, is expected to be signed this weekend.

Ever since 1991 Greece has contested Macedonia's name, to which the United Nations has responded by calling it the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The head of the All-Macedonian National Council - Makedonijum, Straso Olumcev, said they had gathered spontaneously to express revolt over what happened on Tuesday, MIA said.

Greece's main opposition New Democracy party on Thursday called a censure vote against the government in a bid to block a name deal with Macedonia seen as "harmful" to Greek interests. Equally, if the agreement succeeds but the European Union makes no concessions on Greece's debt problems, Tsipras could face a similar fate.

The document states that Macedonia's constitution must be revised within the year for the deal to go ahead.

The conflict matters to neighboring Kosovo partly because of its large population of ethnic Albanians, who also make up about a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people. "It was high time for the problem to be solved".

Macedonia hopes that resolving the bitter dispute will help clear the way for it to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Macedonia's friendship treaty with Bulgaria has contributed to this effort since its finalisation in January 2018, with bilateral trade between the countries rising at an annualised rate of 11 percent in the following six months.

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