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Macedonia will change its name. Why is it important?



Under the agreement, Greece's neighbor will cease to use the name "Republic of Macedonia", a name that he chose in 1991 when proclaiming independence from Yugoslavia. Instead, he will call himself "Republic of Northern Macedonia". After months of street protests and heated debates in both countries, the naming contract on Friday in Athens has overcome the last of several hurdles, with 153 votes in the 300-seat parliament.

A member of NATO and the European Union has blocked Skopje's membership in NATO and the start of accession negotiations with the EU until the name dispute is resolved. Under the agreement, Greece will lift its objections in order to pave the way for the integration of its neighbor.

Both countries have been under pressure to resolve the dispute, as Western countries see the further integration of the Balkan countries into the EU and NATO as a way to improve the stability of the region. The move may even serve as a compromise that can facilitate other regional disputes. Moscow, however, openly disagrees with Macedonia's aspirations, which had long played an important role in the region.

The agreement ratified for the first time in Skopje follows on from the defeat of the nationalist Conservatives of Macedonia by the Social Democrats. It has significantly improved the climate between the two neighboring countries after decades of strong nationalist rhetoric on both sides.

Maps have been circulated in Greece since the early 1

990s, the borders of which extend as far as the port city of Thessaloniki capital, which funnel territorial fears. A giant statue of the ancient Macedonian king Alexander the Great, erected on the central square of Skopje, further fueled cultural looting.

In the summer of 2018, relations eased with a joint statement by Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev that the name dispute was finally over. In a symbolic ceremony that took place on Lake Prespa, on the border between Greece, Albania and Macedonia, the two men signed the agreement known as the Prespa Agreement.

Deal as Prime Minister's Legacy

] The deal was widely criticized in both countries in the steps that led to its ratification. In a referendum in Skopje, there was a low turnout, and the Greek government survived two votes against and the loss of its youngest coalition partner in seven months.
  Macedonia sees low turnout in referendum on name change amid disinformation campaign

Concerns concern identity and its potential impact on future security , Opponents claim that the addition of the word "north" may help to define geographic names, but does not distinguish between nationality and language, which could provide a basis for minority issues and territorial claims.

According to recent surveys, more than six 10 Greeks reject the deal, with demonstrations taking place in the run-up to the Friday vote. A protest rally on Athens Sunday, in which tens of thousands participated, was characterized by violence.

The Greek Prime Minister has spent political capital to force the deal as a "patriotic duty". He also acknowledged that the deal was "associated with political costs". His party is 10% behind the main opposition, a strong opponent of the deal. Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the New Democracy party, who spoke before the parliamentary vote on Friday, described the ratification of the agreement as "a national error that is an affront to truth and history."

Shortly after the agreement was ratified Tspiras said in a tweet, "Today we're writing a new page in the Balkans, with nationalist hatreds, disputes and conflicts giving way to friendship, peace and cooperation."

His Macedonian counterpart shared the same positive outlook in a congratulatory tweet to the Greek Prime Minister.

European leaders also used social media to celebrate the agreement. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, praised Tspiras and Zaev for their courage in finding a middle ground, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged the Prespa agreement as "an important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the entire region" [19659002] welcomed. They had imagination, they took the risk, they were willing to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good, "Tusk wrote on his official Twitter account.

Polls indicate that Tsipras is losing an election in this The 44-year-old politician appeared as an economic populist at the height of the financial crisis in Greece in 2015 and promised to rewrite the conditions of Greece's rescue effort with great fanfare, but without much success. Many Greeks see the name agreement as Tsipras & # 39; Legacy project aimed at securing its future in politics and strengthening its image beyond Greek borders.


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