Greece and Macedonia reach deal in 27-year dispute over name


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".

"There is no way back", Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in a press conference, Reuters reports, after he spoke with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

Athens, which like all members of both organisations has a veto over admissions, objected to its neighbour's use of the name Macedonia, arguing that it, along with articles in the constitution, could imply territorial claims over its own northern region of the same name.

The "new" Slavic people calling themselves Macedonians did not help matters when they named the main airport in the capital, Skopje, after Ancient Greek hero Alexander the Great, as well as a key highway running from Skopje to the Greek border.

Greece had also vetoed its neighbor's bid to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

"By solving the name question, we are becoming a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

The row between Athens and Skopje has been ongoing since 1991, when Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and declared its independence.

"A short while ago we reached an agreement with the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the disagreement our two countries have" over the name issue, Tsipras told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

It was admitted to the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, because of Greece's objection.

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

Protests in Greece have existed for decades but were renewed earlier this year following UN-mediated talks between the two countries to try and resolve the issue that did not yield an agreement. "Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise - Republic of Northern Macedonia".

"This historic agreement is testament to many years of patient diplomacy, and to the willingness of these two leaders to solve a dispute which has affected the region for too long", Stoltenberg said. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

Greece will then back invitations for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and start negotiations on joining the European Union. Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

In a statement, the Party of European Socialists (PES) welcomed the agreement reached by the two Prime Ministers.

The new name will need to be approved by the Macedonian people and the Greek parliament, but by the sounds of things it's a goer.

Skopje also needs to revise its constitution, Tsipras said, before Greece ratifies the deal.

"In essence, the (deal) is acceptance of all Greek positions", VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said.