Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Macedonia name changed to end 27-year name row

Macedonia name changed to end 27-year name row

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia say they have agreed on "Republic of Northern Macedonia" as the new name for the Balkan country, ending a bitter 27-year dispute that had prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining global institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras [left] and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev [right] in Sofia in May.

Greece had also blocked the country from negotiating with the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"By solving the name question, we are becoming a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

Zaev also added that after the two parliaments confirm the agreement, there will be a referendum in Macedonia in autumn.

Due to Greek opposition to its northern neighbor sharing a name with a Greek province, Macedonia has been recognized by the United Nations and other worldwide organizations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to writing the new name into the constitution, a move meant to show the change is permanent and binding for domestic and global use.

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.

"[The deal] puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies".

Many Greeks felt their northern neighbour was trying to hijack Greece's ancient cultural heritage.

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.

The deal was welcomed by EU officials, with European Council president Donald Tusk tweeting his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev.

"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", Stoltenberg said. "I am keeping my fingers crossed".

In a statement, Nimetz congratulated the two prime ministers on reaching an agreement: "I have no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras also confirmed that an agreement on the name has been reached. "We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory", Hristijan Mickoski, president of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE said.

Mitsotakis earlier slammed the deal reached between Greece and FYROM, calling it a "bad deal" that recognizes a Macedonian ethnicity and language.

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