Greece, Macedonia Settle Long-Simmering Name Feud

  • Greece, Macedonia Settle Long-Simmering Name Feud

Greece, Macedonia Settle Long-Simmering Name Feud

The new name - which in Macedonian is Severna Makedonija - will be used both domestically and internationally, while Macedonia will also amend its constitution as part of the deal.

Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement on how to end their long-running name dispute, a Greek government official said on Tuesday. We have a historic solution after two and a half decades.

"I am convinced that the referendum on the new name will be successful and that most citizens will say yes", said the Macedonian PM.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves the Presidential Palace following his meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (not pictured) in Athens, Greece, June 12, 2018.

In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to writing the new name into the constitution, a move meant to show the change is permanent and binding for domestic and worldwide use.

In televised comments, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared the deal "a great diplomatic victory and a great historic opportunity" for the region to have "friendship, cooperation and co-development".

Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement over the latter's name after a dispute that has lasted since the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Tsipras said if Macedonia does not change its constitution to reflect the new name, Greece will again block Macedonian membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

In a decades-old dispute, Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

Macedonia hopes that resolving the name dispute will help clear the way for it to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Zaev said resolving the long-standing issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had prepared a 20-page draft agreement after repeated talks with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov. Tsipras and Zaev spoke on the phone yesterday for an hour, and said they would continue their conversation today.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, a hardline junior coalition partner in Tsipras's government, earlier dismissed talk of a deal, saying there was "no chance" Zaev could get it approved.

European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated both sides.

Ancient Macedonia was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a point of pride to Greeks today.

Tsipras added that once Skopje ratifies the deal in Parliament and revises its constitution to rid it of anything that could be construed as irredentist, then Athens will lift its objections to FYROM's European Union accession and its induction to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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

Besides claiming it as part of its heritage, Greece also had a province bordering the new country with the same name and feared Skopje could harbour territorial ambitions.