Macedonia name dispute: PMs watch as ministers sign ‘historic’ deal

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (right) and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on 17 June 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (right) met Zoran Zaev near the border between the two countries

Greece and Macedonia have signed an agreement that aims to settle a decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Under the deal, Greece’s neighbour will be known as North Macedonia.

The name has been the subject of heated rows since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, of which it was a part.

But the agreement still needs to be approved by both parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia. It faces stern opposition from nationalists.

Athens has long argued that by using the name Macedonia, its neighbour was implying it had a claim on the northern Greek province also called Macedonia.

The row has seen Macedonia blocked from entering Nato and the EU.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed the agreement on Sunday, saying: “This is a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples.”

He and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev watched as their foreign ministers signed the document on Lake Prespa on Greece’s northern border.

On Saturday Mr Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote over the deal, amid accusations he made too many concessions.

What happens now?

There is still some way to go before the name change becomes official.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the agreement

Macedonia’s parliament first needs to back the deal. That would be followed by a referendum in September or October.

If voters there support it, the government would have to change the constitution, which is a key Greek demand.

Things have been complicated further as Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov is refusing to sign the agreement.

He has the power to veto the deal – but not indefinitely.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Macedonian president has the power to veto the name deal

If he refuses to sign it, it will be sent back to parliament for a second vote. If it passes again, President Ivanov would then be obliged to approve the legislation.

The deal will finally have to be ratified by the Greek parliament, a process which may also not be straightforward.

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