Greece has agreed to recognise its northern neighbour under a new name, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, ending a long-running and often bitter dispute over rival claims to the name Macedonia.
Known hitherto by either by its acronym, FYROM, or simply as Macedonia, Northern Macedonia is a geographical qualifier that ends any fear in Athens of territorial ambition against the neighbouring Greek province of the same name.
“This agreement preserves the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity,” said Zoran Zaev, Macedonia’s prime minister. “Both our language and our people will continue to be known as Macedonian.” The agreement will be put to popular vote in a referendum later this year.
“After months of negotiation we have managed to reach a deal that will solve our longstanding difference over the name of our neighbour,” said the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. “They have agreed to rename their country the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a change that will apply in their international and bilateral relations and domestically.”
NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, was among the first to welcome what he described as a historic agreement and urged both sides to finalise it. Ending the dispute should now ensure Macedonia quickly becomes a NATO member. The country’s membership may even be approved as soon as the NATO summit in Brussels in July, where Greece plans to lift a decade-long veto on the Macedonian membership.
“This agreement sets Skopje on its path to NATO membership, and it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider western Balkans,” said Mr Stoltenberg.