UPDATE — 6/17, 3:58 p.m. EDT: Greek and Macedonian officials have officially agreed to change the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia, effectively allowing the country to join NATO and the EU.
While parliamentary bodies of both countries must now approve the measure, a no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over the deal failed on Saturday despite nearly 70 percent of Greeks opposed to an agreement.
A resolution to a bizarre 27-year dispute with neighboring Greece has forced the government of Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia.
An agreement following two days of intense phone negotiations between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the end of diplomatic brawling over Macedonia’s name is the culmination of five months of talks and included a U.N. arbitrator.
“I am convinced that the referendum on the new name will be successful and that most citizens will say yes. Citizens are the ones who will make a decision through a referendum, and of course, the prime minister and the president should help them,” Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters at a Tuesday press conference.
For his part in the solving the abiding crisis, Tsipras said:
“A short while ago we reached an agreement with the prime minister of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia on the disagreement our two countries have. We have a good agreement that covers all the preconditions the Greek side had set.”
The agreement over the name change is expected to advance Skopje‘s entry into both NATO and the EU. Prior to Tuesday’s landmark agreement, Greece had consistently blocked Macedonia’s bid to enter both alliances.
Born out of the ashes of the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has repeatedly argued the name “The Republic of Macedonia” connoted a claim to Macedonian territory in northern Greece.
Despite the geniality expressed by both leaders Tuesday, important obstacles remain: Parliaments in both countries must ratify the agreement and Macedonians must affirm the pact in a referendum expected in the fall.
Also under the agreement, Athens must acknowledge the future Republic of Northern Macedonia’s national identity and language.
[European Western Balkans] [France 24] [Politico] [Photo courtesy AP via The National Herald]