Published: Wed, June 13, 2018

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

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

Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement on how to end their long-running name dispute, a Greek government official said on Tuesday.

The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, while Macedonia will also amend its constitution as part of the deal.

The nationality of the country's citizens will be listed on official documents in English as "Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia", Greek officials said.

"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", said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Macedonia's new name will be put up for a referendum, to be held in autumn.

In 1992 more than a million Greeks joined a rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki, once the most important city in ancient Macedonia, to proclaim "Macedonia is Greek".

So Greece calls its neighbor Skopje, after the capital, or Fyrom, the acronym for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the provisional name under which it was admitted to the United Nations.

"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".

Last week, protests took place in both Greece and Macedonia against the proposed compromise.

Greece, an European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, has also cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

The deal was welcomed by European Union officials.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his support for the agreement: 'Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible'.

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

The two prime ministers are expected to sign the agreement over the next weekend.

They said they looked forward to accession negotiations beginning with Skopje in June.

The dispute has poisoned relations between the two neighbors since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. A meeting of the two soon may seal the deal, he said.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had prepared a 20-page draft agreement after repeated talks with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov. The Greek parliament will also have to agree to the proposal.

Macedonia proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 but its global recognition was immediately blocked by Greece because of the name.

The main opposition party in Macedonia, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE, accused Zaev of "capitulating" to Greece. Athens say that name implies territorial claims on a northern Greek province of the same name.

"This is a bad agreement that is in conflict with the majority of the Greek people", he said.

Greece is to ratify the deal in parliament after Macedonia has made the necessary changes to its constitution, Tsipras said.

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