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

Blanche Robertson
June 13, 2018

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shakes hands with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos before briefing him on developments on the name dispute with Macedonia, in Athens, Greece May 19, 2018.

The nationality of the country's citizens will be listed on official documents in English as "Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia", Greek officials said.

"The two countries have agreed to the name Republic of Northern Macedonia, as opposed to the current UN-recognized name 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", pending the approval of the Greek and Macedonian parliaments.

The "new" Slavic people calling themselves Macedonians did not help matters when they named the main airport in the capital, Skopje, after Ancient Greek hero Alexander the Great, as well as a key highway running from Skopje to the Greek border.

While the debate over the name might seem trivial, Greece has gone as far as to block Macedonia from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or the European Union because of its name.

By solving the dispute which has lingered for more than 25 years, Macedonia will remove the biggest obstacle on its path towards European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession.

"There is no way back", Zaev said in a news conference.

In a decades-old dispute, Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

If you're planning to travel to Macedonia to see its lovely scenery and historic destinations, it might be good to check the exact name of the country before you leave.

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Government sources signalled to the Press Association that ministers were set to back the move. What is the EU Withdrawal Bill? Conservative MPs keen to retain the changes.

Zaev said the deal would be signed this weekend, and a voter referendum would be held in the fall.

In February, as NPR's Joanna Kakassis reported, more than 140,000 Greeks marched to parliament in Athens as part of a "Macedonia is Greece" rally, chanting that the name "is in our soul". "With this solution we are strengthening Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity, once and for all", he added.

"In other words, if the constitutional amendment is not successfully completed, then the invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be automatically rescinded and the accession talks with the European Union will not start", he said. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

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

In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the deal "historic".

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

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

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

The deal would also require Macedonia revising its constitution.

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