Macedonia agrees to change its name and end its 27-year beef with Greece

Milos Bicanski/Getty ImagesThe Presidential Guard changing guards during a massive rally February 4 in Athens, Greece.
  • The leaders of Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on Tuesday to end a 27-year feud surrounding the Balkan country’s name.
  • The prime ministers have agreed to refer to Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in the Macedonian language.
  • The move aims to appease Greece, which had opposed the Republic’s use of Macedonia because it sees it as an implication to territorial claims over Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

The leaders of Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on Tuesday to end a 27-year feud surrounding the Balkan country’s name.

The prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed to refer to Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in the Macedonian language. The name change is an effort to prevent territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

Greece’s Macedonia includes the major port city of Thessaloniki, and tensions have existed between Greece and its neighbour for over two decades following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The capital of Skopje adopted the name of Macedonia in 1991, following its independence, and Greece vetoed the country’s bid to join NATO and the European Union over the name dispute.

The new name will now have to be approved by Macedonians via a referendum as well as by the country’s parliament. The Greek parliament will also have to agree to the proposal.

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

Protests in Greece have existed for decades but were renewed earlier this year following unsuccessful UN-mediated talks between the two countries to try to resolve the issue. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in several major Greek cities, including Thessaloniki and Athens, calling for “Macedonia” to remain Greek.

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