Greece, Macedonia sign historic deal to change Macedonia’s name to settle long dispute
Eastern European neighbours Greece and Macedonia signed a historic pact on Sunday, June 17, at Lake Prespa which is located at the border between the two nations renaming Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia. The agreement brought to the end a dispute which has been going on for 27 years now.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his counterpart from Greece Alexis Tsipras had on Tuesday, June 12, announced about their making the "historic" agreement to change the name of Macedonia, one of the countries that emerged after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The dispute and the deal that sealed it took place amid protests and political controversies in both countries.
On Sunday the foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia - Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, respectively, signed the pact to end the prolonged dispute that had its inception when the 'Republic of Macedonia' declared its independence in 1991 after the break-up of former Yugoslavia.
The problem lied in the fact that Greece's biggest and second most populous province which lies to its north bordering the Republic of Macedonia is also called Macedonia and Athens always lived under the fear that its northern neighbour could lay claims on its northern region as well as the heritage. The region is the cradle of the empire of Alexander the Great and is considered an immense pride by the Greeks even today. So even as most countries recognised Republic of Macedonia, Greece was always reluctant to do the same.
Tsipras reportedly believed that the deal was something that any Greek prime minister would want to conclude though his Opposition figures felt that the PM was far too lenient over it. Protests broke out in the country over the issue with the demonstrators shouting "traitor" and clashing with the law-keepers demanding no compromise over the name row.
In Macedonia, too, not all were convinced about a change of name. President Gjorge Ivanov, for instance, blasted the deal with Greece saying such an agreement could lead to unforeseeable results for the country and refused to sign it.
But the leaders of the two countries were happy. While Greece was content saying that the agreement was signed on its terms, Macedonia was happy that it would now make it easier for it to get the membership of the EU and Nato - something which was stalled by Greece because of the dispute.