Macedonia agrees to name change deal with Greece

Macedonia agrees to name change deal with Greece

Macedonia agreed to change its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia after reaching a historic deal with Greece on their decades-old dispute over the ex-Yugoslav republic's name, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Tuesday.

"Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija]", Zoran Zaev, the country's prime minister, announced Tuesday.

"After months of negotiation we've managed to reach a deal that'll solve our longstanding difference over the name of our neighbour", Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on TV. Tsipras said that Athens got "a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side" as he briefed Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on the results of negotiations.

On Twitter, Zaev said the deal preserved the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity.

Greece will lift its objections to Macedonia's accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union once the dispute is resolved.

Greece also demanded that Macedonia drops from its flag the rayed sun of Vergina, which it claimed was an ancient Greek symbol, as well as certain articles from its constitution.

Greece has a northern province called Macedonia, also the cradle of ancient Macedonia and its most famous leader, Alexander the Great.

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.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, its official United Nations designation, will change its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, but will be known colloquially as Northern Macedonia under the accord.

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Opponents in Macedonia have called any adjustment of the country's name a form of treason and a cave-in to Greek demands.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement he had "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

Last week, protests took place in both Greece and Macedonia against the proposed compromise. "And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans". The short explanation is that it has something to do with ending a bitter 27-year dispute with Greece, but bear with us if you can. Tsipras and Zaev spoke on the phone yesterday for an hour, and said they would continue their conversation today.

By solving the dispute which has lingered for more than 25 years, Macedonia will remove the biggest obstacle on its path towards European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession. Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

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 proposed name change has been resisted by sections of the Macedonian public.

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.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Mr Tsipras' governing coalition partner, said he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote, meaning the left-wing prime minister will need to seek support from political opponents.

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