Macedonia makes name change deal with Greece

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

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

The name dispute has poisoned relations between the two countries since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has prevented Macedonia from joining global institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Tsipras said if Macedonia does not change its constitution to reflect the new name, Greece will again block Macedonian membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU. "The negotiations and the successful proposal for solution became possible after the Government of Zoran Zaev came in to power in Skopje, ending the years of pointless denial of the conservatives in Skopje".

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the deal would open the way for his country's entry into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, both of which are now blocked by Greece, on the basis of its use of the name Macedonia.

But Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' junior coalition partner, said he would reject the name agreement in a parliamentary vote.

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

"We wholeheartedly congratulate Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for their determination and leadership in reaching this historic agreement", said EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn in a joint statement.

Skopje hopes to secure a date to begin European Union accession talks at an EU summit in late June, and an invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in mid-July.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday's "historic agreement" was "testament to many years of patient diplomacy", and called on the two countries' prime ministers to finalize the deal.

"The European Union perspective of the Western Balkans ... remains the most powerful stabilising force for the region", they added.

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The next step, he said, is for the deal to be signed by the foreign ministries of both countries.

If you're planning to travel to Macedonia to see its handsome scenery and historic destinations, it might be good to check the exact name of the country before you leave.

The deal was welcomed by EU officials, with European Council president Donald Tusk tweeting his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev.

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

The proposed name change has been resisted by sections of the Macedonian public. "We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory", Hristijan Mickoski, president of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE said.

Mr Tsipras added: "The name change will be implemented not only the country's global relations but also domestically".

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's province of the same name, which borders the Balkan country.

For Greece, the name Macedonia is part of its own cultural heritage and a source of pride as an ancient province that was the core of Alexander the Great's empire more than 2,000 years ago.

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