Macedonia has agreed on a new name, but the future will be decided by an unpredictable Greek vote

  • Martin Macq
  • 16.1.2019 07:15

The Macedonian parliament agreed on a new name following the deal between Greece and Macedonia, which was reached last June. It opens the door for an EU and NATO membership in the coming years, which would contribute to further stabilisation of the Balkans but also to a rise of Macedonian economy. However, all of those historical advances will be determined by the vote of the Greek parliament which is more than ever divided over the renaming question.

On January 11, Macedonian lawmakers agreed on an historical name change for their country, ending a decades-long dispute with Greece. The country that might soon be called The Republic of North Macedonia is now expected to join NATO and the EU in a move to further stabilise the region. However, the agreement is still to be approved by the Greek parliament in the coming weeks, which is set to be all but easy.

Last September, a referendum was held in Macedonia on the issue of renaming the country but it failed due to a low participation rate. Therefore, it is hard to say whether the population completely supports this deal or not, even if the election of the pro-European Social Democrats after a long period of the VMRO-DPMNE nationalists in power could be interpreted as a partial consent to the name change by the population.

Fully supported by the EU, NATO and the US, the deal responds more to the Macedonian desire to bind their future with the EU and NATO than a total support for the name change. The parliamentary vote shifts this disputed part of the Balkans to the West and will certainly undermine Russian influence in the region. Furthermore, the future economic integration of Macedonia with the EU will contribute to the opening up of the country, which is landlocked by five countries and has no access to the sea. The agreement also benefits the EU as Macedonia’s membership and could brighten up the European project at a time when the Union is set to be stagnating. A NATO membership, which could occur by the end of the year, according to NATO head Jens Stoltenberg, would also strengthen the Alliance as it would push Russia further back to its borders.


The final resolution of the 27-year-long dispute is now depending on whether Greek PM Tsipras manages to gather allies within the opposition. 


However, all of that depends on the strained vote of the Greek parliament which should take place this month. In protest of the deal with Macedonia, the Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who is also the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks party (ANEL), resigned on Sunday and announced that his party was also leaving the government. That decision plunged Greece into a political turmoil and left Prime Minister’s party Syriza in a minority in the parliament. Prior to any parliamentary vote about Macedonia’s new name, PM Alexis Tsipras announced that he would seek a confidence vote to secure the completion of his government’s term. If the May early elections scenario is confirmed, Macedonia’s renaming and its EU/NATO membership could be postponed for a long time. The final resolution of the 27-year-long dispute is now depending on whether Mr. Tsipras manages to gather allies within the opposition or not, which is going to be all but easy.

About author: Martin Macq


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