Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Athens and Skopje reportedly reach deal in name dispute - English

Zaev and Alexis Tsipras in run-up to the deal Zaev and Alexis Tsipras in run-up to the deal
Jeannette Daniel | 13 June, 2018, 16:57

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia say they have agreed on "Republic of Northern Macedonia" as the new name for the Balkan country, ending a bitter 27-year dispute that had prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining global institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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

The prime minsters of Greece and Macedonia - Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev - had a phone call with each other on Tuesday, and shortly after announced the name change, with Macedonia set to amend its constitution as part of the pact.

Greek opponents of the deal - which will reportedly rename the Balkan republic as North Macedonia - say it would not go far enough.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise - Republic of Northern Macedonia".

It jump-started UN-mediated negotiations over the name, which Greece believes to be a territorial claim on its northern province called Macedonia.

Speaking at a news conference in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, Mr Zaev described the deal as a "historic agreement of the century".

Athens, which has a northern region also called Macedonia bordering on the ex-Yugoslav republic, objected to the name, demanding it be changed. It was admitted to the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, because of Greece's objection. Protesters this spring called for a United Nations resolution demanding recognition of the country under the name of Macedonia.

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In 2001, Greece, the only country in the region with EU, NATO and eurozone membership, expressed support for Skopje, faced by an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, a hardline junior coalition partner in Tsipras's government, earlier dismissed talk of a deal, saying there was "no chance" Zaev could get it approved.

"I am keeping my fingers crossed", he said. "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", EU Council president Donald Tusk said.

Since Macedonia (the country) was created in 1991, Greece has argued that its name implied a claim to their territory and ancient heritage.

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.

"We must now make good use of the window of opportunity that has been pushed wide open to accompany and consolidate the winds of peace and cooperation in the entire region".

Greece's Macedonia includes the major port city of Thessaloniki, and tensions have existed between Greece and its neighbor for over two decades, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

In a statement, Nimetz congratulated the two prime ministers on reaching an agreement: "I have no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people". Ending years of obstruction by Athens, the breakthrough came after Zaev's government took power a year ago.

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