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

Clay Curtis
June 13, 2018

Greece has reached a deal on the name of its northern neighbor, which named itself Republic of Macedonia following the break up of Yugoslavia nearly three decades ago.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement from Tsipras and Zaev, calling it a "historic" deal.

"We wholeheartedly congratulate Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for their determination and leadership in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe", Hahn and Mogherini said in a joint statement. A former republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia broke away in 1991, and its name is recognized by the vast majority of countries around the world, including the U.S. But its southern neighbor, Greece, has regions that use the same name, and both countries argued that they had the rightful claim to it.

'We have reached an accord, a good accord that covers all the conditions set by Greece, ' Tsipras said in televised comments after briefing Greece's president Prokopis Pavlopoulos on the accord. "We strongly believe that at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit on July 12 in Brussels, Macedonia will receive an invitation for membership".

This is the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia, which is in the capital, Skopje.

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. The country was also accepted to the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Protesters this spring called for a United Nations resolution demanding recognition of the country under the name of Macedonia.

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But nationalist forces could try to upset the apple cart in Macedonia, with the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party in Skopje rushing to denounce the deal.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Tuesday that a deal had been reached to give Macedonia a different name, addressing all of Greece's concerns. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

"We have a combined name with a geographic qualifier for all uses", Tsipras said as quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) news agency.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on both countries to finalize the agreement, which he said would put the Republic of Macedonia on the path to NATO membership and consolidate peace in the western Balkans. In Greece, the talks have sparked a confrontation between the embattled Tsipras and his main coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, whose leader and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos reiterated on Tuesday his party won't back any agreement that includes the term "Macedonia". "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", EU Council president Donald Tusk said.

He said that Macedonia "cannot and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilisation of Macedonia".

But the breakthrough is now likely to see European Union leaders open accession talks with Macedonia at a summit in June and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invite Macedonia to join the military alliance at a summit in July.

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