Greece, Macedonia Resolve Decades-Old ‘Name Dispute’ Paving Way for Skopje’s EU Integration

Greece, Macedonia Resolve Decades-Old ‘Name Dispute’ Paving Way for Skopje’s EU Integration

The governments of Greece and Macedonia have announced they have reached a historic agreement ending their decades-old dispute over the latter’s name, thus removing the most crucial hurdle before the EU integration of the former Yugoslav Republic.

Under the long-anticipated deal, Macedonia has agreed to adopt the name of “Republic of North Macedonia.”

The Macedonian name dispute has been raging on since the early 1990s, when the Republic of Macedonia proclaimed its independence from under the rubble of the former Yugoslavia.

EU-member state Greece, however, has been objecting to its northwestern neighbor calling itself “Macedonia”. The term also refers to an administrative region in Northern Greece, and Athens warns the conflicting uses could potentially lead to irredentist claims.

Because of Greece’s objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM), and has been unable to proceed with its bids for EU and NATO membership.

The agreement over the “Republic of North Macedonia” has been announced by Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras after they had a phone conversation on Tuesday.

“I’m happy because we have a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side,” Tsipras has told Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos during a televised meeting, as cited by DW.

“This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbors and puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies,” he has added.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has lauded the resolution of the name dispute as a “historic agreement of the century” that “will strengthen the Macedonian identity.”

“We have been solving a two-and-a-half decade dispute … that has been drowning the country,” he has declared.

Much of the dispute has been focused on the fact that the name “Macedonia” is also used to denote a historic and geographic region in the southwestern Balkans, stemming from the Kingdom of Macedon, later a province of the Roman Empire, in Antiquity.

Parts of the today’s geographic region of Macedonia are located not only in today’s Republic of (North) Macedonia and in Greece, but also in neighboring Bulgaria and Albania.

Under the historic deal, Macedonia is now supposed to amend its Constitution to adopt its new name. Greece is expected to lift its veto on its neighbor’s EU and NATO membership bids.

(Banner image: Wiki Commons) 

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