Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Macedonia agrees to new name after 27-year dispute with Greece

Macedonia agrees to new name after 27-year dispute with Greece

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

Today the 27-year impasse ended as two nations finally came to a resolution: The former Yugoslav republic is getting a new name, the Republic of North Macedonia.

Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of Macedonia, and Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister of Greece, both agreed to the deal on Monday.

Speaking after a phone call with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, he said: "There is no way back".

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.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability.

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".

In 2001, Greece, the only country in the region with EU, NATO and eurozone membership, expressed support for Skopje, faced by an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels. And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans, ' he added.

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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. Most opposition parties have criticised Tsipras's tactics, and even his coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, have said they will not back an accord that allows the continued use of "Macedonia".

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and commissioner Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement congratulating the two prime ministers "in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe".

"This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours and puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies", he said.

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

"I am encouraged by the dedication of both governments to deliver mutual benefits for all their citizens through the establishment of a strategic partnership as a basis for intensified cooperation across all sectors", he said in a statement.

For Greece, the name Macedonia is part of its own cultural heritage and a source of pride as an ancient province that was the core of Alexander the Great's empire more than 2,000 years ago.

European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated both sides.

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's province of the same name, which borders the Balkan country.

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