The Greek and North Macedonian governments signed a deal on Sunday meant to put an end to decades of dispute over the latter country’s official name.
The country now officially recognized by the U.N. as the Former Yugoslav Republic of North Macedonia would be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia to distinguish it from Greece’s northern region, also called North Macedonia. The name change is aimed at ending a 27-year row between the two countries, because of which Greece had opposed its northern neighbor joining the EU and NATO.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called the day “historic” and said she expected the European Council to decide in two weeks to start negotiations with North Macedonia over it joining the EU.
“This is a mutually beneficial agreement which fully respects the values and the principles of the people,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said ahead of the deal signing, which he attended with his counterpart Zoran Zaev, Greek news outlet Ekathimerini reported.
Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote in the Greek parliament over the deal on Saturday.
Both the Greek and the North Macedonian parliaments still have to ratify the deal for it to be applied, and Macedonia will also put the issue to a referendum vote for its citizens. Macedonia’s nationalist President Gjorge Ivanov has said he will veto the vote if parliament approves it.
In Greece, seven in 10 citizens are opposed to the deal, a survey published on Saturday showed, according to Ekathimerini.
On Sunday, police fired teargas to displace protesters demonstrating against the deal who tried to break through a police cordon to reach the area where the deal was being signed, Ekathimerini reported.