Say Hello to ‘North Macedonia’ – New name ends decades of bitter political deadlock for the small Balkan country

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Skopje, North Macedonia | June 13 (Tirana Echo) – Greece and FYROM have agreed on a name deal for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which after mutual parliamentary approvals will be called North Macedonia, ending 27 years of bitter conflict and political deadlock between the two Balkan neighbors.

Yesterday Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced that Athens and Skopje had reached a deal settling the 27 year old dispute between the two neighbors over the former Yugoslav Republic’s name.

We have a deal. I’m happy because we have a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side,” Tsipras said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

According to the deal, Greece agrees to recognize Macedonia (FYROM) under the new name of ‘Republic of North Macedonia or “Severna Makedonija”, its language as Macedonian and its citizens Macedonians or Citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia –  an agreement which has to be ratified by both Greek and Macedonian Parliaments while it will later be voted in a referendum in Macedonia by the end of this year.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the agreement protected the cultural and ethnic identity of Macedonians. “There is no way back,” Zaev said after a telephone conversation with Greek counterpart Tsipras.

The deal opens the way for Macedonia to advance in its NATO and EU membership, which had both been blocked by Greece until a name settlement was agreed. Greece has always maintained the name of Macedonia implies territorial claims over its northern region of Macedonia.

Despite opposition distrust in both countries, the agreement between Tsipras and Zaev was highly praised by the European Union, the United States and NATO.

We wholeheartedly congratulate Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for their determination and leadership in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe” – read a statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also warmly welcomed the agreement, saying Skopje will now be on the way to become a full NATO member.

I now call on both countries to finalize the agreement reached by the two leaders. This will set Skopje on its path to NATO membership. And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans.” – said Stoltenberg.

The deal to settle the name of Macedonia where ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of its 2.1 million people, was also welcomed by Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, a close ally of Zaev.

Two progressive leaders of neighboring countries made history today and showed the EU & the World how vision and willingness to overcome the past can find space for the future where it appears to be none! Chapeau @atsipras @ZoranZaev – The Balkans are today a better place thanks to you both.” – twitted Rama.

Skopje and Athens have been under intense UN mediated negotiations to resolve the name dispute, which dates back to 1991 when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia. Greece has since vetoed its NATO and EU integration until a new name acceptable to Athens was agreed.

The European Commission has recently recommended opening accession talks for Macedonia to join the EU, a step which has to be agreed by EU member states at their upcoming European Council meeting by the end of June.

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