Macedonian President Promises to Veto Name Deal with Greece

16 June, 2018

The "Republic of Northern Macedonia" is the proposed new name for a country that was once part of Yugoslavia.

The proposed name is meant to settle a diplomatic dispute between the country known as the Republic of Macedonia and the government in Greece. But, the proposal will not satisfy some nationalists on either side of the border.

Macedonia declared its independence in 1991. However, many Greeks felt the country had hijacked their ancient cultural past. Macedonia was, they said, the birthplace of Alexander the Great and the name of a province in northern Greece.

"Macedonia is Greek. It is not Slavic. Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek Language, all the coins, all the monuments..."

But many people whose families have lived in the former Yugoslav republic refuse to accept any other name.

One Macedonian protester told VOA:

"We are Macedonians, and we will remain that. That's it."

Since its independence, Greece's northern neighbor was officially recognized as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Greek government has blocked the country's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. The Greek government has demanded that the country give up the name Macedonia.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zeav addresses the media during a news conference in the Government building in Skopje, Macedonia, June 12, 2018.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zeav addresses the media during a news conference in the Government building in Skopje, Macedonia, June 12, 2018.

But on Tuesday, the Greek and Macedonian prime ministers reached a deal that could settle the 27-year dispute. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the agreement.

"They agreed to name their country Republic of Severna Makedonija, or in our language, Republic of North Macedonia."

He added that the agreement guarantees that there can be no territorial or other claims on the Greek side of the border.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called on his country's citizens to accept the compromise.

"Macedonia must go forward and be equal with the West, to compete with them and to have the same quality of life.

Some of his citizens agree. But opponents in both countries could stop any final move.

"We are Macedonians, and we are not interested in changing our name, a woman named Marcia told the Reuters news service. "For my whole life, I've been called Marcia. It would be the same as if someone would force me now to change my name," she said.

President Gjorge Ivanov says the agreement is harmful for the Republic of Macedonia and violates its constitution. Ivanov said he would refuse to sign it into law.

The deal still requires a special election in Macedonia and action by parliament.

I'm Lucija Millonig.

VOANewsreported this story. George Grow adapted the report for Learning English. His story include information from the Reuters news service. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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