Greece, Macedonia close to deal on name dispute: Greek government sources
13 June, 2018, 5:00 am
ATHENS – Greece and Macedonia are very close to a deal to resolve a decades-old dispute over the ex-Yugoslav republic’s name, government officials in Athens told Reuters on Tuesday.
The row has blocked the tiny Balkan state’s efforts to join the European Union and the NATO military alliance, of which Greece is a member.
Athens and Skopje are aiming to agree the broad outline of a settlement before an EU summit in late June, though any deal would need to clear a referendum in Macedonia and win approval from lawmakers in both countries.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev are expected to discuss the issue over the phone on Tuesday.
“A deal could be announced even today,” said a Greek government official who declined to be named.
There was no immediate comment from officials in Skopje.
The dispute erupted in 1991 when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
Greece has its own region called Macedonia, birthplace of national hero Alexander the Great. Many Greeks see the dispute as an attempt by its northern neighbor to piggy-back on Greece’s cultural heritage.
Among compromise names proposed over the years are Nova (new) Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia (named after a river), Upper Macedonia and, most recently, Ilinden Macedonia.
However, most Greek political parties have so far rejected any use of the name Macedonia, even with descriptive tags, and hundreds of thousands of Greeks demonstrated in February against any compromise.
The dispute also triggered a 19-month trade embargo on Macedonia by Greece in the early 1990s, ended by an interim accord under when Greece agreed to recognize its neighbor under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In Greece, the state is known either as FYROM or Skopje, the name of its capital. Most other countries call it Macedonia.