Greece and Macedonia set aside three decades of dispute on Sunday as they agreed on a new name for the former Yugoslav republic, paving the way for its possible admission to the European Union and NATO. The foreign ministers of the two countries signed an accord to rename the former Yugoslav republic the “Republic of North Macedonia”, despite a storm of protest over a deal seen as a national sellout by some on both sides.
In the idyllic setting of Prespes, a lake region that borders Greece, Macedonia and Albania, leaders from the two countries embraced and shook hands in the presence of European and United Nations officials.
Protests on the Greece-Macedonia border as Macedonia changes its name
Police fire tear gas at protesters gathered at the Greece-Macedonia border on Sunday (June 17) as foreign ministers from both nations signed an accord to rename the former Yugoslav republic the “Republic of North Macedonia.” Anna Bevan reports
The agreement still requires the approval of both parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia. That approval is far from assured, as it faces stiff opposition from the Greek public, and Macedonia’s president has vowed to block the deal.
“Very few believed we would be able to leave behind 26 years of unfruitful dispute,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
“We have a historic responsibility that this deal is not held in abeyance,” Tsipras said as he and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev received a standing ovation.
Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote mounted by the opposition in parliament on Saturday. But up to 70 percent of Greeks object to the name compromise, an opinion poll by the Proto Thema newspaper showed on Saturday. In Psarades, the tiny lakeside community where the deal was signed, the church bell tolled in mourning, draped in a Greek flag.