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Macedonia agrees to new name after 27-year dispute with Greece

13 June 2018, 01:07 | Taylor George

Macedonia PM hails'historic deal with Greece to resolve name row

Macedonia PM hails'historic deal with Greece to resolve name row

Macedonia reached an agreement with Greece to change its name on Tuesday, ending a 27-year dispute between the two countries.

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.

"There is an agreement.

Our agreement includes Republic of North Macedonia for overall use", Zaev told reporters in the capital Skopje.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The long-running dispute has centred on Greece's objection to Macedonia's name, which has prompted it to block its neighbour from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union until it is changed.

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

"We have been solving a two-and-a-half-decade dispute. that has been drowning the country", he said, adding that the deal "will strengthen the Macedonian identity".

European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated both sides.

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

The dispute over the "Macedonia" name had been a thorn in relations of the two countries at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

According to reports this will most likely take place at Prespes in northern Greece on Saturday.

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Both governments have faced criticism ahead of the compromise and on Tuesday Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov signalled his concern.

"We should serve the citizens and that is why we need to improve Macedonia in all aspects".

He is close to a nationalist party which was defeated by Zaev in elections previous year.

The party's leader Hristijan Mickoski said he would not support changes to the "constitutional name" of Macedonia.

Conservative forces in Greece could also cause trouble, with New Democracy, the main opposition party in Athens, urging Tsipras not to sign the "bad agreement".

There was no immediate comment from Macedonian officials.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the deal would pave the way for the nation's eventual membership of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability. "And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans".

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the deal "contributes to the transformation of the entire region of southeast Europe".

Greece had long demanded the former Yugoslav republic change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

For Greece, the name Macedonia is part of its own cultural heritage and a source of pride as an ancient province that was the core of Alexander the Great's empire more than 2,000 years ago.



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