'We have a deal,' say Greece and Macedonia over name dispute

Howard TerryJun 13, 2018

After several meetings, Athens and Skopje agreed on Tuesday that the country will be renamed the "Republic of North Macedonia" and that Macedonia should amend its constitution accordingly.

Greece regards "Macedonia" as a term referring only to one of its northern regions and the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, and insists on the use of another name for its northern neighbor.

"A short while ago we reached an agreement with the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the disagreement our two countries have" over the name issue, Tsipras told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. "The negotiations and the successful proposal for solution became possible after the Government of Zoran Zaev came in to power in Skopje, ending the years of pointless denial of the conservatives in Skopje".

Under the newly achieved agreement, the country that has been known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia will be named North Macedonia.

On Twitter, Zaev said the deal preserved the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity.

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.

"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", said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement.

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

Stoltenberg said: "This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership".

But the deal still needs to be approved by the Macedonian parliament and pass a referendum there, as well as ratification in the Greek parliament. Tsipras and Zaev spoke on the phone yesterday for an hour, and said they would continue their conversation today.

The proposed name change has been resisted by sections of the Macedonian public.

The prime minister of Greece says his country has reached an agreement with Macedonia to end a decades-old dispute over the neighboring country's name.

As it happens, Greece also has a region called Macedonia.

"Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia.

Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", EU Council president Donald Tusk said.

Besides claiming it as part of its heritage, Greece also had a province bordering the new country with the same name and feared Skopje could harbour territorial ambitions.

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.

"We are proud that this historic agreement was reached while two progressive governments are running both of the countries", PES president Sergei Stanishev said.

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

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