Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

'We have a deal,' say Greece and Macedonia over name dispute

Macedonia will change its name after 27-year argument with Greece Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he’s happy with the result
Ellis Copeland | 13 June, 2018, 13:05

Under Tuesday's historic deal, the country known at the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.

Hailing what he described as a diplomatic success, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday in a televised address that an agreement had been reached for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to be called North Macedonia.

Greece had long demanded that Macedonia change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

In 2016, amid Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II, Athens accused Skopje of using "excessive force" to push back hundreds of migrants trying to cross into Macedonia to continue their journey to northern Europe.

Tsipras said the deal covers all the preconditions the Greek side had set, namely that the name will be used erga omnes - nationally and domestically - and that Skopje will revise its constitution.

Speaking after a phone call with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, he said: "There is no way back".

Mr Tsipras said the deal dictates "a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours".

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.

"This historic agreement is testament to many years of patient diplomacy, and to the willingness of these two leaders to solve a dispute which has affected the region for too long", Stoltenberg said.

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United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz welcomed the news, expressing confidence that the agreement will strengthen relations between the two Balkan neighbors "and especially between their people".

It also has to be ratified by both Macedonian and Greek parliaments. The short explanation is that it has something to do with ending a bitter 27-year dispute with Greece, but bear with us if you can.

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

"Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", EU Council president Donald Tusk said.

He added that Macedonia would take a new "compound name with a geographical denominator", without spelling out the name.

Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said: "Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia".

"I am encouraged by the dedication of both governments to deliver mutual benefits for all their citizens through the establishment of a strategic partnership as a basis for intensified cooperation across all sectors", he said in a statement.

Zaev said that the definition of the country's language will remain "Macedonian", as Skopje insisted in the talks.

The move aims to appease Greece, which had opposed the Republic's use of Macedonia, because it sees it as an implication to territorial claims over Greece's northern region of Macedonia.

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