Goodbye FYR, hello North! Macedonia and Greece resolve name dispute

Leroy Wright
June 13, 2018

Macedonia has agreed to change its name, bringing an end to a 27-year long dispute with neighbouring Greece.

"After months of negotiation we have managed to reach a deal that will solve our longstanding difference over the name of our neighbour", Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said.

Greece's conservative opposition considers filing a censure motion against the government over the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) announced Tuesday, Kathimerini understands. After Athens stymied its neighbour for years, a breakthrough came after Zaev's government took power a year ago to jump-start UN-mediated negotiations over the name, which Greece believes to be a territorial claim on its northern province called Macedonia.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on May 19 that the name of the "Republic of Ilinden Macedonia" could be a possible compromise to be reached between Skopje and Athens in a dispute over the name of the country.

The dispute has kept Macedonia - whose United Nations -recognized name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, organizations where Greece has veto power over admissions, like all members.

Due to Greek opposition to its northern neighbor sharing a name with a Greek province, Macedonia has been recognized by the United Nations and other global organizations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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". There were also rallies in Macedonia in spring, demanding the country's name to be left in place.

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The Republic of North Macedonia will remove from its constitution the text which mentions "protection of Macedonian minorities" outside the territory of the country.

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

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

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday's "historic agreement" was "testament to many years of patient diplomacy", and called on the two countries' prime ministers to finalize the deal.

He added that Macedonia "cannot and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilisation of Macedonia". And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans, ' he added.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras's 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 to get ratification.

The dispute has meant Greece has blocked the former Yugoslav republic from becoming part of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or the European Union.

Announcing the agreement reached with neighbouring Greece over the change of name, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said resolving the long-standing issue would open his country's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union. Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible.

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