Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Greece and Macedonia end 27-year feud over name

Greece and Macedonia end 27-year feud over name

A decades-long dispute over the name of the tiny nation of Macedonia at last reached a peaceful conclusion Tuesday, with the Balkan nation agreeing with Greece to change its name to "North Macedonia".

Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev said the former Yugoslav republic's new name for both domestic and global purposes would be Republic of North Macedonia.

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.

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.

The long-running dispute has centred on Greece's objection to Macedonia's name, which has prompted it to block its neighbour from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union until it is changed. 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".

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Skopje and Athens announced they can resolve their long and bitter dispute by agreeing on the composite name "Republic of North Macedonia" for Macedonia - a deal expected to unlock Skopje's European Union and NATO bids.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Macedonia has just changed its name. and to be honest, we're all a little confused. "Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise - Republic of Northern Macedonia". Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in several major Greek cities, including Thessaloniki and Athens, calling for "Macedonia" to remain Greek. It also has to be ratified by both Macedonian and Greek parliaments.

However, Mr Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

"In other words, if the constitutional amendment is not successfully completed, then the invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be automatically rescinded and the accession talks with the European Union will not start", he said.

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European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Tsipras and Zaev. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

The new name will need to be approved by the Macedonian people and the Greek parliament, but by the sounds of things it's a goer.

"In essence, the (deal) is acceptance of all Greek positions", VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said.

After the final agreement has been reached, a joint statement for the Greek and Macedonian public is expected to be published.

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