Macedonia makes name change deal with Greece

Alexis Tsipras meets with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia Bulgaria

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras meets with Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia Thomson Reuters

According to The Wall Street Journal, many Greek nationalists may still continue to fight the battle over Macedonia's name, and "reject any non-Hellenic claim to the name, even in a composite form".

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement to resolve their 27-year dispute over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

It was only with the adoption of a provisional name - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - that the country was finally admitted into the United Nations in 1993.

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.

In a statement, the Party of European Socialists (PES) welcomed the agreement reached by the two Prime Ministers.

Speaking after a phone call with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, he said: "There is no way back".

"The PES calls on all governments in the EU to prove that those who make hard decisions are rewarded and invite Skopje to start the accession negotiations with the European Union at the 28-29 June EU summit", he 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.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement he had "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

"This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership".

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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.

The doors to further Western expansion in the Balkans have been thrown wide open by a seeming breakthrough on the Macedonia name dispute. But its southern neighbor, Greece, has regions that use the same name, and both countries argued that they had the rightful claim to it.

In a nutshell, Greek people felt like the name belonged to them because it ties in with the country's heritage and the Macedon Kingdom - the king of which was Alexander the Great, who you'll have heard of.

In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to writing the new name into the constitution, a move meant to show the change is permanent and binding for domestic and global use.

The deal would also require Macedonia revising its constitution.

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

Greece's Macedonia is a northern region that includes the country's second city, Thessaloniki, whereas Macedonia's Macedonia is, well, a country.

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

Zaev said that the definition of the country's language will remain "Macedonian", as Skopje insisted in the talks.

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