Macedonia has agreed to change its name to Northern Macedonia in order to end a decades-old row with Greece, which among other things prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining the EU and NATO.
“Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija],” Zoran Zaev, the country’s prime minister, announced Tuesday. The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, with Macedonia making a relevant amendment to its Constitution, Zaev added.
The announcement came after telephone talks with Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, on Tuesday. 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 row between Athens and Skopje has been ongoing since 1991, when Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and declared its independence. Greece argued that by calling itself Republic of Macedonia the neighboring country was stating a territorial claim of the Greek northern province, also called Macedonia.
Due to the name dispute, Greece has vetoed all of attempts by Skopje to join both the European Union and NATO. The country was also accepted to the UN in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Macedonia’s new name will be put up for a referendum, to be held in autumn. It also has to be ratified by both Macedonian and Greek parliaments.
However, passing the name “Northern Macedonia” through Greek parliament might turn out tricky as most parties previously rejected any kind of compromised on the issue.
“We don’t agree and we won’t vote for any deal including the name ‘Macedonia,’” Panos Kammenos, Greek Defense Minister and head of the rightist Independent Greeks party, said.
The MPs are backed by the popular opinion as hundreds of thousands of Greeks marched in February in protest against the use of the world “Macedonia” by the neighboring country. There were also rallies in Macedonia in spring, demanding the country’s name to be left in place.