Thursday, 21 June, 2018

Greek PM says Macedonia's name change will be universal

Greece, Macedonia 'Have A Deal' On Name Dispute Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute
Faye Gross | 13 June, 2018, 00:48

Greece and Macedonia reached a historic agreement Tuesday to end a bitter 27-year name dispute that had kept the smaller and younger country out of worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the two countries' prime ministers announced. Tsipras said that Athens got "a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side" as he briefed Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on the results of negotiations.

The proposed name change has been resisted by sections of the Macedonian public.

There was no immediate comment from Macedonian officials.

Macedonia hopes that resolving the name dispute will help clear the way for it to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Greece has been insisting that use of the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to Greece's own northern province of Macedonia, and a claim to Greece's ancient heritage.

"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".

The deal was welcomed by EU officials, with European Council president Donald Tusk tweeting his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev.

A man holds a Greek flag next to a statue of Alexander the Great.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement Tuesday he has "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighboring countries and especially between their people".

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Greece will then back invitations for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and start negotiations on joining the EU.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Macedonian and Greek parliaments. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes. "I am keeping my fingers crossed".

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati also congratulated "our neighbors & friends" for a "breakthrough agreement" that he said would lead the Balkans region to become part of the "Euro-Atlantic family".

Its new name will be the Republic of Northern Macedonia, which will be used both domestically and internationally. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

The prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece agreed that it would be known as the "Republic of Northern Macedonia" if the proposal receives the necessary approvals from Macedonia's lawmakers and voters.

This year there have been several protests against an agreement in Skopje, as well as in Athens and Greece's second city of Thessaloniki in the north.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and commissioner Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement congratulating the two prime ministers "in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of southeast Europe".

Most opposition parties have criticised Tsipras's tactics, and even his coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, have said they will not back an accord that allows the continued use of "Macedonia".

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