What's in a name? Macedonia dispute explained

What's in a name? Macedonia dispute explained

The Republic of Northern Macedonia is the new name of the former Yugoslav republic that PMs Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed 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".

Officials in Greece and Macedonia say Tuesday, June 12, 2018, they are close to reaching a landmark deal on a long-standing name dispute, to protect Greece's region of Macedonia, birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, but the Greek coalition partner has vowed to vote against the proposed agreement.

"We have a combined name with a geographic qualifier for all uses", Tsipras said as quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) news agency.

"This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours and puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies", he said.

Macedonia will also amend its constitution to reflect the change.

The name dispute has soured relations between the two neighbours at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

The issue has been heated, and one with very real repercussions for Macedonia: It hasn't been able to join the European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation because Greece opposed its name.

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

"I am encouraged by the dedication of both governments to deliver mutual benefits for all their citizens through the establishment of a strategic partnership as a basis for intensified cooperation across all sectors", he said in a statement.

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The accord still requires ratification by the two national parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia, a tough test for the leaders in both countries.

"There is no way back", said Zaev.

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.

"There's no way back", Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev said.

But nationalist forces could try to upset the apple cart in Macedonia, with the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party in Skopje rushing to denounce the deal.

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

Greece will then back invitations for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and start negotiations on joining the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his support for the agreement: 'Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible'.

"The European Union perspective of the Western Balkans ... remains the most powerful stabilising force for the region", they added.

Greece's Macedonia is a northern region that includes the country's second city, Thessaloniki, whereas Macedonia's Macedonia is, well, a country.

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