Friday, 22 June, 2018

Opponents criticize Greece-Macedonia name deal

Jean Claude Juncker Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras GETTYMacedonia could join the EU after ending the long-running dispute with Greece
Lisa Bryan | 13 June, 2018, 19:26

Greece has reached a deal on the name of its northern neighbor, which named itself Republic of Macedonia following the break up of Yugoslavia nearly three decades ago.

In this photo released by Greek Prime Minister's office, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during a televised address to the nation, in Athens, Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

"We have been solving a two-and-a-half decade dispute ... that has been drowning the country", he said, adding that the deal "will strengthen the Macedonian identity".

Following the latest round of discussions, Macedonia is now set to be known as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

"Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija]", Zoran Zaev, the country's prime minister, announced Tuesday.

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.

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

Macedonia will also amend its constitution to reflect the change as part of the deal.

But Macedonia clearly liked the name, too, meaning that there's been a massive stand-off for nearly 30 years, which has seen many protests and conflict. This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership. It also has to be ratified by both Macedonian and Greek parliaments.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev
GETTYThe tiny Balkan country has repeatedly tried to join both the EU and Nato

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the deal would pave the way for the nation's eventual membership of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I believe in the democracy of the internet and want to keep this site and its enriching content free for everyone.

As a result, previous Greek governments have claimed that the Republic of Macedonia- tiny, impoverished and with virtually no military might - also has territorial designs on its province.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on both countries to finalize the agreement, which he said would put the Republic of Macedonia on the path to NATO membership and consolidate peace in the western Balkans.

He added that Macedonia "cannot and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilisation of Macedonia".

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".

"We have a combined name with a geographic qualifier for all uses", Tsipras said as quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) news agency.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Tsipras and Zaev. Ending years of obstruction by Athens, the breakthrough came after Zaev's government took power a year ago.

The name issue has been blocking Skopje's aspirations to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union for years.


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