Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Greece and Macedonia reach historic accord on name row: Greek official

Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute Athens, Skopje Reach Agreement on Constitutional Name of Macedonia
Kenny Thornton | 13 June, 2018, 13:07

"Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija]", Zoran Zaev, the country's prime minister, announced Tuesday.

So Greece calls its neighbor Skopje, after the capital, or Fyrom, the acronym for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the provisional name under which it was admitted to the United Nations.

That challenge will still be a mountain to climb, as Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has not yet secured any support in parliament.

The name issue has been blocking Skopje's aspirations to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union for years.

But the deal still needs to be approved by the Macedonian parliament and pass a referendum there, as well as ratification in the Greek parliament.

Zaev said resolving the long-standing issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

The deal was welcomed by EU officials, with European Council president Donald Tusk tweeting his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev.

"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.

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.

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had prepared a 20-page draft agreement after repeated talks with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov. Both its language and people would continue to be known as Macedonian, he said.

He is close to the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party which was defeated by Zaev in elections past year. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in several major Greek cities, including Thessaloniki and Athens, calling for "Macedonia" to remain Greek.

But nationalist forces could try to upset the apple cart in Macedonia, with the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party in Skopje rushing to denounce the deal.

"Accepting the "Macedonian language" and the "Macedonian ethnicity" constitute a non-acceptable national concession", he said on his official Twitter account.

On Twitter, Zaev said the deal preserved the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity.

But the breakthrough is now likely to see European Union leaders open accession talks with Macedonia at a summit in June and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invite Macedonia to join the military alliance at a summit in July.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability.

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the deal "contributes to the transformation of the entire region of southeast Europe".

Because of the reference to the conqueror, "previous Greek governments have claimed that the Republic of Macedonia- tiny, impoverished, and with virtually no military might - also has territorial designs on its province", NPR adds.

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