Macedonia officially changes name to North Macedonia after long-running dispute with Greece

Prespa Agreement comes into force to end decades-long naming dispute

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
@joncstone
Wednesday 13 February 2019 10:39
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Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev sign agreement on Macedonia name change

The country formerly known as Macedonia has officially changed its name, in a bid to end a long-running dispute with its neighbour Greece.

The Balkan state sandwiched between Bulgaria and Albania will from here on be known as “North Macedonia”, in a nod to the existence of Greece’s region of Macedonia.

The name change, which was agreed last year, came into force on Tuesday under the so-called Prespa Agreement.

“We have just exchanged the final note verbale: Prespa Agreement enters into force!” Nikola Dimitrov, North Macedonia’s foreign minister, said.

“May today be the beginning of a long friendship between Greece and North Macedonia. We can’t change our past, but we can and we will shape our future of friendship, partnership and cooperation.”

Greece had been blocking its neighbour’s entry into the EU and Nato because it disapproves of the name Macedonia, which recalls the ancient kingdom of Alexander the Great.

For years Macedonia was internationally known as FYROM – the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – to skirt around Greece’s objections.

On 17 June 2018 an agreement was signed on the border of the two countries at Lake Prespa that the name change would go ahead. Just 10 days later the EU announced it would start accession talks with the country.

On 6 February this year Nato member states signed an accession protocol allowing the newly named North Macedonia to join the alliance.

As of Wednesday the country is still listed on the UN website as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but its government website and social media profiles now refer to Северна Македонија, or North Macedonia.

Ancient Macedonia was the cradle of warrior king Alexander’s empire, but under the Romans the province of Macedonia was expanded to include territory spanning what is now North Macedonia, as well as Bulgaria and Albania.

Some Greeks have accused Macedonians, who speak a Slavic language, of appropriating aspects of Greek culture. An eight-storey high statue resembling Alexander in the Macedonian capital of Skopje caused a fuss in 2011. Macedonian authorities insist that the statue is of a “warrior on a horse” rather than the ancient Greek hero.

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