Macedonia and Greece reach agreement on "Northern Macedonia"

Macedonia and Greece reach agreement on

A decades-long dispute over the name of the tiny nation of Macedonia at last reached a peaceful conclusion Tuesday, with the Balkan nation agreeing with Greece to change its name to "North Macedonia".

Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev made the announcements shortly after speaking by phone.

"We have a deal, I'm happy because we have a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side", said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Greece regards "Macedonia" as a term referring only to one of its northern regions and the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, and insists on the use of another name for its northern neighbor.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials have welcomed a deal between Greece and Macedonia resolving a decades-long dispute over the Balkan country's name.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement from Tsipras and Zaev, calling it a "historic" deal.

The former Yugoslav republic will now be officially known as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

In the 1995 interim bilateral accord, Greece agreed that the term "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM) would be applied to Macedonia until the dispute is settled.

Mr Tsipras said the deal met the concerns of Greece that a revised name for Macedonia be a "compound" name with a geographical qualifier.

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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.

Macedonia's new name will be put up for a referendum, to be held in autumn.

In February, as NPR's Joanna Kakassis reported, more than 140,000 Greeks marched to parliament in Athens as part of a "Macedonia is Greece" rally, chanting that the name "is in our soul".

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called his Macedonian and Greek counterparts "two progressive leaders" and used their Twitter handles to give their praise, tweeting: "Balkans are today a better place thnx to you both". However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

"In other words, if the constitutional amendment is not successfully completed, then the invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be automatically rescinded and the accession talks with the European Union will not start", he said. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

After the final agreement has been reached, a joint statement for the Greek and Macedonian public is expected to be published. That challenge will still be a mountain to climb, as Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has not yet secured any support in parliament.

The United Nations envoy who mediated the dispute for two decades congratulated Tsipras and Zaev for resolving their differences. "We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory", Hristijan Mickoski, president of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE said.

As it happens, Greece also has a region called Macedonia.

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