Macedonia changes its name ending a 27-year dispute with Greece

13 June 2018

Macedonia changes its name ending a 27-year dispute with Greece

Greece and Macedonia have reached an historic agreement that will change the name of Macedonia, ending a 27-year long dispute that has kept the smaller, younger country out of international organisations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The Balkan country will be officially recognised both nationally and internationally as the Northern Republic of Macedonia, a transition that was announced by Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsparis and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev on Tuesday.

Amendments in the Macedonian constitution will also be implemented as part of an organised deal with Greece.

The dispute between the countries has continued to endure for nearly three decades as Greece had long-demanded that Macedonia change its title 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.

“There is no way back,” Mr Zaev told a news conference as he explained the decision.

“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”.

Mr Tsipras said the deal dictates “a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours”.

“I’m happy because we have a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side,” he told Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos during a televised meeting.

“[The deal] puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies.”

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

The Northern Republic of Macedonia, which broke away from Yugoslavia and declared independence in 1991, has been unable to join the European Union (EU) and NATO until now.

Greece has declared that it will back invitations for Macedonia to finally join the organisations.

Mr Zaev said the deal will be signed this weekend and that a referendum will be held later this year.