Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Macedonia to be called 'Republic of Northern Macedonia'

Macedonia to be called 'Republic of Northern Macedonia'

But Greece and Macedonia have today reached a historic agreement to resolve the long-running diplomatic dispute.

Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev made the announcements shortly after speaking by phone on Tuesday.

The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, with Macedonia making a relevant amendment to its Constitution, Zaev added.

The Greek government has spent 27 years fighting with Macedonia over the use of the name, which references ancient Macedonia and by association its famous leader, Alexander the Great.

Tsipras said in a televised statement that Macedonia's name change would allow a clear distinction between Greece's province of Macedonia and the neighbouring country.

If the name change is approved by the Macedonian people and the parliaments of both nations, then it would pave the way for the tiny Balkan nation's eventual North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union memberships.

"There is no way back", Mr Zaev told a news conference as he explained the decision.

The name dispute has soured relations between the two neighbours at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Mr Tsipras said the deal met the concerns of Greece that a revised name for Macedonia be a "compound" name with a geographical qualifier.

Apparently other names thrown into the pot included Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and Ilinden Macedonia. It's in the northern, mountainous part of the country and includes Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, and ancient Philippi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Both Albania and Macedonia hope to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union.

"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", said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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

The United Nations envoy who mediated the dispute for two decades congratulated Tsipras and Zaev for resolving their differences.

Greek Defence 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.

In Skopje, the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had informed party leader Hristijan Mickoski that he had "achieved a solution with Greece".

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

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also declared a deal had been struck.

The two prime ministers are expected to sign the agreement over the next weekend.

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