North Macedonia Name Deal Signed With Greece Amid Opposition


Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia signed the historic accord, with Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev in attendance, joined by officials from the United Nations and the European Union (EU), who have welcomed the move.

Greece and the Republic of Macedonia signed an historic agreement that may open the door for the former Yugoslav state to start accession talks with the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as both nations face strong opposition at home.

Mr Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote mounted by Greece's opposition in parliament yesterday, but the depth of public emotion against the deal is strong. Scuffles broke out, with riot police firing tear gas to stop protesters from breaching police lines.

"Hatred toward the country of another is not patriotism", Tsipras told the parliament on June 16.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world's longest - and arguably most arcane - diplomatic disputes, which began 27 years ago with Macedonia's declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries.

The accord, signed on Lake Prespa in northern Greece bordering Macedonia and Albania, hopes to settle almost three decades of talks between the two over the name.

Specifically, by officially recognizing a Macedonian language and nationality, it is nearly certain that the country will be called Macedonia by the broader world, instead of North Macedonia, opponents of the deal argue.

Tsipras stressed the deal met all of Greece's demands and would close "the open wound that has been troubling our country for more than 26 years".

The motion, brought by the opposition New Democracy party, was rejected by 153 MPs, with 127 in favour.

"We have forces that are fighting for the future, we have forces that are fighting for the past", Dimitrov said in Skopje.

Tsipras' domestic critics say he has bargained away Greece's diplomatic advantages - the power of veto over European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession - for a deal that could backfire.

"With the signing of the agreement between Macedonia and Greece, everyone will benefit", Zaev said Saturday. "We cannot change the past, we could the future".

Macedonian and Greek ministers on Sunday signed a landmark agreement aimed at finally resolving their decades-long dispute - which Macedonia's PM said had "turned an enemy into a friend". The process will take months.

"We have a historic responsibility that this deal is not held in abeyance", Tsipras said as he and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev received a standing ovation.

The agreement still requires the approval of both parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia. "We put an end to the long-standing differences which have put up a wall that made friendly relations hard between neighbours", Zaev said. If that passes, Ivanov is required to approve the legislation, which would then be ratified.

However, the right-wing Independent Greeks party opposes the deal and has said it will not support the agreement when it comes up for ratification in parliament.