Greece, Macedonia sign name change pact

Clay Curtis
June 17, 2018

"It is a deal that respects both country's fundamental values", Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

Under the deal, Greece's neighbour will be known as North Macedonia.

The agreement still requires the approval of both parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia.

"With the signing of the agreement between Macedonia and Greece, everyone will benefit", Zaev told reporters in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.

Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", but more than 120 countries including Russian Federation and the United States have recognized the Balkan country under the name of "Republic of Macedonia".

Specifically, by officially recognizing a Macedonian language and nationality, it is nearly certain that the country will be called Macedonia by the broader world, instead of North Macedonia, opponents of the deal argue.

The Macedonian and Greek Foreign Ministers, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias, in the presence of their countries' Prime Ministers, Macedonia's Zoran Zaev and Greece's Alexis Tsipras, signed a historic agreement aimed at ending the long dispute over Macedonia's name on Sunday.

Nationalists on both sides say it erodes their identity.

Tsipras - whose coalition commands 154 of the parliament's 300 seats - was widely expected to survive the vote, after his coalition partner, Independent Greeks, vowed to support him despite its opposition to the Macedonia deal and its pledge to vote against the agreement when it is put to a vote later this year.

It looked like the setting for a wedding. And indeed, one of the participants was agreeing to change its name.

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Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday and was given a birthday cake, has been trying to broker a solution since 1994, first as a U.S. envoy and subsequently on behalf of the United Nations.

After nearly three decades of dispute, the northern neighbour of Greece should soon become North Macedonia.

He called the prime and foreign ministers "four outstanding leaders" with "political courage, vision and diplomatic skills".

Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia set aside decades of dispute on Sunday as they agreed on a new name for the Balkan state, potentially paving the way for Skopje's admission to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"We have a historic responsibility that this deal is not held in abeyance", Tsipras said as he and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev received a standing ovation. That would be followed by a referendum in September or October. It'll be submitted to lawmakers in Athens after the Skopje government changes its constitution this year.

Opponents include the conservative opposition party and the country’s president Gjorge Ivanov, who has said he will not sign off on the agreement.

He has the power to veto the deal - but not indefinitely.

Tsipras has been accused of treachery by Greek hardliners, and on Saturday defeated a vote of censure against his government amid protests and clashes with police outside parliament. If that passes, Ivanov is required to approve the legislation, which would then be ratified.

Greek right-wingers also announced rallies condemning the deal in the regions near the Greek-Macedonian border.

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