Athens, June 13 (IANS) Greece has reached a deal on the name of its northern neighbour, which called itself Macedonia at the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
After 27 years of talks – and many protests – they have settled on the name Republic of North Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in Macedonian.
Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region.
It had vetoed the neighbour’s bid to join Nato and the European Union.
The new name will now need to be approved by the Macedonian people and Greek Parliament, BBC reported.
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).
Significantly, they agreed that the new name would be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognise the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.
They also agreed that the English name could be used as well as the Slavic term.
The name Macedonia already belongs to a northern region of Greece that includes the country’s second city Thessaloniki. By adopting the same identity in 1991, the new Slavic nation infuriated many Greeks, who suspected their northern neighbour of territorial ambitions.
The new 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 motorway running from the Serbian to the Greek border.
During the 4th Century BC, the Macedonia of Alexander and his father Philip II before him ruled all of Greece and much beyond it.
Only partly. Greece argues that Macedonia is an intrinsic part of Hellenic heritage. The ancient capital of Aigai is close to the modern Greek town of Vergina, while Alexander’s birthplace is in Pella. As part of the deal, it is made clear that the people of North Macedonia have no relation to ancient Greek civilisation and their language is part of the Slavic family, unrelated to ancient Greek heritage.
But while Alexander remains a powerful symbol, recent territorial disputes over Macedonia are far more serious.