Greek PM says Macedonia's name change will be universal

Blanche Robertson
June 12, 2018

In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to a constitutional change that would likely be included in the draft deal, to provide an assurance that the name change was permanent and binding for domestic and global use.

Greece has been insisting that use of the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to Greece's own northern province of Macedonia, and a claim to Greece's ancient heritage.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that he had reached a "good agreement" with Skopje on the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, adding that it satisfied all of Athens' preconditions.

Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev made the announcements shortly after speaking by phone on Tuesday. "There is no way back", Zaev told a news conference.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement from Tsipras and Zaev, calling it a "historic" deal.

The dispute has poisoned relations between the two neighbors since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

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Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' governing coalition partner, said he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote, meaning the left-wing prime minister will need to seek support from political opponents.

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.

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

But Macedonia feared that a name change could have a negative impact on the national identity of its people, the majority of whom simply call themselves "Macedonians".

In the 1995 interim bilateral accord, Greece agreed that the term "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM) would be applied to Macedonia until the dispute is settled. There were also rallies in Macedonia in spring, demanding the country's name to be left in place.

They also urged the Council to endorse opening EU accession talks with Macedonia, which the European Commission recommended in April.

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