Published On: Wed, Jun 13th, 2018

EU news: Greece and Macedonia end 27-year row over name change | World | News

The tiny Balkan country has repeatedly tried to join the EU and Nato, but its attempts have been blocked by neighbouring Greece.

Athens officials had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on a northern Greek province of the same name.

But Greece and Macedonia have today reached a historic agreement to resolve the long-running diplomatic dispute.

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

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the deal would pave the way for the nation’s eventual membership of the EU and Nato.

Speaking after a phone call with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, he said: “There is no way back.

“Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honourable and geographically precise – Republic of Northern Macedonia.”

“By solving the name question, we are becoming a member of Nato.”

Mr Tsipras added: “The name change will be implemented not only the country’s international relations but also domestically.”

The two sides had earlier dropped a number of alternative names, including Upper Macedonia and New Macedonia

However, the accord still requires ratification by the two national parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia.

The name dispute has soured relations between the two neighbours at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia.

Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia’s opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said: “Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia.

“We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory.

Athens and Skopje have been racing to agree the outline of a settlement before an EU summit in late June.

Bulgaria, holder of the EU’s rotating six-month presidency said the deal paved the way for accession talks.

EU officials Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn congratulated Greece and Macedonia on the “historic agreement” in a joint statement.

The pair said: “This achievement belongs to the leaders of the two countries and their teams, but first and foremost it belongs to all the citizens of both countries, and of Europe as a whole.

“We must now make good use of the window of opportunity that has been pushed wide open to accompany and consolidate the winds of peace and cooperation in the entire region.”

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added: “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.”

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