Athens, Skopje Reach Agreement on Constitutional Name of Macedonia

The name “Macedonia” has been a major point of disputes between Greece and Macedonia

Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hailed a "historic solution" today after Skopje and Athens resolved a longstanding row by agreeing to rename his country the Republic of North Macedonia.

Mitsotakis said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did not have any "political legitimacy" to commit the country to a deal that is not approved by his junior government coalition partner, the Independent Greeks (ANEL).

The prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed to refer to Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia or Severna Makedonija, as it is written in the Macedonian language.

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.

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

The name issue has been blocking Skopje's aspirations to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union for years.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement from Tsipras and Zaev, calling it a "historic" deal.

Macedonia had proposed four names to resolve the dispute: Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Upper Macedonia, Republic of Vardar Macedonia and Republic of Macedonia (Skopje).

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Macedonia proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 but its global recognition was immediately blocked by Greece because of the name. There were also rallies in Macedonia in spring, demanding the country's name to be left in place.

However, the accord still requires ratification by the two national parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia.

Macedonia became a candidate for membership of the European Union in 2005 but Greece blocked the start of negotiations.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added: "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". However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes. Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

After the final agreement has been reached, a joint statement for the Greek and Macedonian public is expected to be published.

The United Nations envoy who mediated the dispute for two decades congratulated Tsipras and Zaev for resolving their differences.

Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said: "Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia".

On the timeline of the deal, Mr Tsipras said that it would be first signed by the two countries' foreign ministers and then ratified by Macedonia's Parliament.

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