Macedonia Has Just Changed Its Name To End Dispute With Greece

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces criticism for the move one made to improve relations with Macedonia. — Reuters pic

Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute

Greek and Macedonian governments have agreed on the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia", stated Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on a press conference on Tuesday.

Macedonia and Greece on Tuesday resolved a almost three-decade row by agreeing to call it the Republic of North Macedonia, as Skopje hailed a "historic solution" to a dispute which had blocked its bid to join the European Union and NATO.

"Dear fellow citizens, we have [made] a historic decision..."

The name dispute has poisoned relations between the two countries since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has prevented Macedonia from joining worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

'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.

In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to writing the new name into the constitution, a move meant to show the change is permanent and binding for domestic and worldwide use.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' government partner, said Tuesday he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote.

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Just to make things confusing, when it became a member of the United Nations in 1993, it had to be given an alternative provisional name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", which was purely because of the ongoing dispute with Greece.

"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.

Athens contends that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over Greece's northern province, also named Macedonia.

Macedonia, the name of the ex-Yugoslav republic since its independence in 1991, has poisoned relations between Athens and Skopje for almost three decades.

In 2008, Macedonia presented itself as a candidate for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military alliance under the provisional name but again faced a Greek veto.

But before that, he said the agreement will be put to parliament for ratification in order not to waste any time and to allow Greece to lift its blockade on Macedonia's potential membership of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

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On the timeline of the deal, Mr Tsipras said that it would be first signed by the two countries' foreign ministers and then ratified by Macedonia's Parliament. Both its language and people would continue to be known as Macedonian, he said.

Greek media previously reported today that Zaev is going to talk with Tsipras and confirm the agreement that they accomplished earlier today.

"There's no way back", Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev said.

The tiny Balkan country has repeatedly tried to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but its attempts have been blocked by neighbouring Greece.

In Greece, Tsipras' conservative rival Kyriakos Mitsotakis also denounced the deal as a "bad agreement".

"[Macedonia] can not and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilization of Macedonia".

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