Macedonia agrees to new name after 27-year dispute with Greece


The United Nations envoy who has tried to mediate the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia for almost as long as the dispute has existed is congratulating the countries' prime ministers for resolving their differences.

Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras said in a televised statement on Tuesday that Macedonia's name change to "Republic of North Mecedonia" would be reflected both domestically and overseas.

The head of the nationalist junior party in Greece's left-led coalition government reiterated on Tuesday that Independent Greeks (ANEL) will not back any deal between Athens and Skopje on the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that contains the term "Macedonia", but also indicated that he will not put the fragile coalition at risk either.

Both Albania and Macedonia hope to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union.

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They also urged the Council to endorse opening EU accession talks with Macedonia, which the European Commission recommended in April.

"The chance is here and it must be seized, bravely, as this is the only patriotic way", Macedonian Prime Minisrter Zoran Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

But before that, he said the agreement will be put to parliament for ratification in order not to waste any time and to allow Greece to lift its blockade on Macedonia's potential membership of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

ATHENS, GREECE-Greece and Macedonia reached an agreement Tuesday to end a bitter 27-year name dispute that had kept the smaller and younger country out of worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the two countries' prime ministers announced. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

"This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours and puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies", he said.

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"We wholeheartedly congratulate Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for their determination and leadership in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe", Hahn and Mogherini said in a joint statement.

But Macedonia feared that a name change could have a negative impact on the national identity of its people, the majority of whom simply call themselves "Macedonians".

Greece had long demanded that its northern neighbour change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of the region in northern Greece named Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

Tsipras says the name would be used by the country both domestically and internationally.

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