Monday, 25 June, 2018

Macedonia makes name change deal with Greece

Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev addresses the media about the'name agreement with Greece Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev addresses the media about the'name agreement with Greece
Steven Clarke | 13 June, 2018, 09:19

Macedonia reached a deal with Greece on Tuesday to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia in order to end a decades-long dispute.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the nation in a 5-minute televised address to announce the deal with his counterpart, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

"The name [will be] the Republic of North Macedonia translated into all languages for general use", Zaev said, as aired by the Macedonian TV channels.

That is because the Balkan nation will be holding a referendum later this year to officially change its name to the Northern Republic of Macedonia.

Ancient Macedonia was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a point of pride to Greeks today.

Zaev said the deal would open the way for the tiny Balkan nation's eventual membership of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, now blocked by Greece's objections to its use of the name Macedonia.

Zaev said resolving the longstanding issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

The name dispute between Athens and Skopje dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Greece and Macedonia are involved in a longtime dispute over the name of the Republic of Macedonia.

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The United Nations envoy who has tried to mediate the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia for almost as long as the dispute has existed is congratulating the countries' prime ministers for resolving their differences.

"I now call on both countries to finalise the agreement reached by the two leaders".

Both Albania and Macedonia hope to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union.

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

On June 6, thousands of people protested in major cities across Greece against the compromise, while, four days earlier, like numbers of supporters of Macedonia's right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party took to the streets of the capital, Skopje, to protest against a deal. "I am keeping my fingers crossed". Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", he said. That challenge will still be a mountain to climb, as Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has not yet secured any support in parliament.

Veteran United Nations diplomat Matthew Nimetz, who has been a mediator in the name dispute since 1994, hailed the "leadership, vision and determination" of the foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia, who have negotiated for months.

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

Greek opponents of the deal say it would not go far enough.

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