Greece has reached a deal on the name of its northern neighbor, which named itself Republic of Macedonia following the break up of Yugoslavia almost three decades ago.
The two nations settled on a name— certain to incite controversy amongst many Greeks both inside the country, as well as outside her borders.
Republic of North Macedonia.
Greece had objected to the name “Macedonia,” fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region, as well as cultural appropriation of the Greek nature of Ancient Macedonia, a historically Greek province and important part of Ancient Greek history that has no direct connection between the modern citizens, who hail from a mixed Slavic heritage.
Greece had also blocked the country from negotiating with the European Union and NATO.
The new name will now need to be approved by the a referendum that will be orchestrated by the central government on Skopje, as well as by Greece’s parliament.
Under the deal, the country known at the United Nations as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) will be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.
Its language will be “Macedonian” and its people known as “Macedonians” (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia). They also agreed that the English name could be used as well as the Slavic term.
Significantly, they agreed that the new name would be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognize the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.
Why the problem?
The name “Macedonia” already belongs to a northern region of Greece that includes the country’s second largest city Thessaloniki. By adopting the same identity in 1991, the new nation comprised by a Slavic population who have no historical or cultural connection to the Ancient Macedonians from whom the name derives infuriated many Greeks, who suspected their northern neighbor of territorial ambitions and cultural appropriation.
The “new” Slavic people calling themselves Macedonians did not help matters when they named the main airport in the capital, Skopje, after Ancient Greek hero Alexander the Great, as well as a key highway running from Skopje to the Greek border.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the nation in a 5-minute televised address to announce the deal with his counterpart, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
Watch the video here:
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