Macedonian President refuses to sign off on landmark name change deal

14 June 2018

Macedonian President refuses to sign off on landmark name change deal

Macedonia’s President says he will not sign-off on a historical deal reached with Greece on changing his country’s name.

The refusal by President Gjorge Ivanov has dashed hopes of ending a 27-year dispute with Greece, which has blocked Macedonia’s entry into the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

On Tuesday, a deal was reached between Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsparis and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev to officially change Macedonia’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

“My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail, or threats,” Mr Ivanov told a news conference. “I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement.”

Mr Ivanov, who has the right to veto the deal, said that the possible opportunity to gain membership into NATO and the European Union was not a sufficient excuse to sign such a “bad agreement.”

The deal is expected to be signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers this weekend.

Following that, Macedonia’s Parliament will vote on it, and if it is approved, Mr Ivanov’s signature would be required.

If the President does not sign, the deal will then go back to parliament for a second vote. If that passes, Mr Ivanov would have to sign off on the agreement.

The clash between Greece and Macedonia has continued since Macedonia split from Yugoslavia and declared independence in 1991.

The dispute is also cemented on the basis of cultural heritage. Greece has long demanded that Macedonia change its name in order to remove any claim to Greece’s significant historical and cultural northern site, Macedonia, which was the birthplace of the ancient warrior king, Alexander the Great.

Macedonians have expressed mixed feelings for the deal, with some saying that it is a national identity disaster, however, others are welcoming the end to the dispute with Greece.

“North Macedonia is acceptable for me,” said Svetlana Jancevska, a 55-year-old music teacher in Skopje. “[It will] not damage my identity as Macedonian. The language remains Macedonian, and that makes me happy. It was high time for the problem to be solved.”