Greece and Macedonia end decades long name dispute

  • Mihai Turcanu
  • 13.6.2018 13:31

On 12 June, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia - Alexis Tsiparas and Zoran Zaev, have announced that they reached an accord thereby ending the 27 years old dispute with regard to the Republic of Macedonia's constitutional name, which will be changed to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The end of this disagreement, which up until now was blocking Skopje's Euro-Atlantic path, will have a beneficial, peace-inducing, and stabilizing effect in the Balkans.

The dispute had its roots in the nationalist approach both countries had towards the issue, as the never-before independent Slavic nation of Macedonia sought, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, a prestigious national identity thereby assuming one which implied a connection with the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. The Greeks, who regard the ancient Macedonians as ethnic Greeks, considered this to be equivalent to a cultural and historical appropriation of their past and went farther as to imply that by using the denomination of Macedonia, its neighbour could, one day, claim a part of its northern territory also named Macedonia. For this pretext, Athens has been blocking for a long time Macedonia's accession to NATO and the EU. 

The present left-leaning governments in both Athens and Skopje managed, however, to abandon this nationalist optic, and with concessions made on both sides, an agreement was finally reached, though Macedonia still intends to hold a referendum to ratify it. This agreement was also possible thanks to the EU being at present strongly committed to speed-up the integration of the Western Balkans, as numerous regional actors, including BulgariaAlbania, and even Macedonia have warned against Turkey or Russia gaining a foothold in the region in absence of a proactive EU and NATO strategy.

About author: Mihai Turcanu

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