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Athens and Skopje signed a compromise agreement on the name of Macedonia

Athens and Skopje signed a compromise agreement on the name of Macedonia

18 2018 June
Tags:Macedonia, Greece, Politics, Balkans, International relations, Europe, NATO

Greek Foreign Ministers Nikos Kotzias and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Nicola Dimitrov signed an agreement on Sunday on the new constitutional name of Macedonia. The signature under the agreement was also put by the special representative of the UN Secretary General, Matthew Nimitz, who acted as an intermediary in the negotiations.

Tent near the lake

The signing of the agreement was greeted with applause and cries of "Bravo!".

The ceremony, which began with a delay of 40 minutes, was broadcast live by the Greek public television ERT.

The treaty is called historic - it completes the long-standing dispute between the two countries in the Balkans and opens the Skopje door for accession to NATO and the European Union. The agreement opens a new era in relations between the two countries.

The signing ceremony took place in the Psarades settlement near the Prespa lakes, on the border of the two countries, in the presence of Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev. The ceremony was also attended by the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Rosemary Di Carlo, high-ranking European officials - the Head of European diplomacy Federica Mogerini and European Commissioner Johannes Khan.

The ceremony was held in a large tent set on the shore of the lake.

Greek Foreign Ministers Nikos Kotzias and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Nicola Dimitrov during the signing ceremony of the agreement on the new constitutional name of Macedonia. 17 June 2018
Greek Foreign Ministers Nikos Kotzias and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Nicola Dimitrov during the signing ceremony of the agreement on the new constitutional name of Macedonia. 17 June 2018

Arrived first Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cotazia, journalists and European officials greeted with applause.

European officials enthusiastically applauded both the prime ministers of the two countries, the ovation lasted more than a minute.

The current title in the constitution - the Republic of Macedonia, in the opinion of the Greeks, reflects the policy of irredentism and the neighboring republic is confused with the Greek province of Macedonia.

According to the agreement, the country will be called Republic of Northern Macedonia.

After the signing, the delegations set off for the boats to Otevo in Macedonian territory, where the dinner will take place. Journalists covering the signing ceremony in Psaradese will not be able to go to Otezovo - only photographers and videographers will work here.

"Meeting with the history"

Before signing, the Prime Ministers of the two countries delivered their greetings.

Tsipras said that the signing ceremony is a "meeting with history."

"There are no winners or losers here," Tsipras said, noting that he is addressing not only the peoples of the two countries, but all the Balkans.

According to him, a historic step has been taken, the countries open a new era of stability, prosperity, security, establish relations of friendship, peace and cooperation not only among themselves, but also for all the Balkans.

The Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev at the signing ceremony of the agreement on the new constitutional name of Macedonia. 17 June 2018
The Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev at the signing ceremony of the agreement on the new constitutional name of Macedonia. 17 June 2018

Cipras thanked the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Matthew Nimitz for his many years of efforts to resolve the dispute.

The prime minister of Greece called the agreement mutually beneficial. "All mankind needs such examples," said Tsipras.

The prime minister said that he is a fan of Balkan music.

"Now a new song begins in the relations between the two countries," Tsipras noted.

For his part, Zaev said that the agreement is of strategic importance.

"We put an end to many years of disagreement," he said.

"The agreement establishes trust between the two countries, their citizens, we establish friendship between the two countries, we are partners and allies, a new reality is being created in the region," Zaev said.

According to him, the agreement will benefit the economic and trade relations of the two countries.

Zaev said that the Greeks and the population of his country are against nationalism.

"Our countries should look to the future," the prime minister said. He acknowledged that reaching an agreement was not easy, and thanked Nimitz, as well as the European Union and all those who contributed to the agreement.

After signing Zaev took off his tie and gave it to Tsipras - the Greek prime minister had previously promised that he would start wearing ties when he could reduce Greece's national debt.

Contract

According to the 20-page document, the official name of FYROM will be "Republic of Northern Macedonia", which will be used erga omnes (in all cases - ed.). The citizenship of the country will be indicated as "Macedonian / citizen of the Republic of Northern Macedonia", and the official language will retain the name "Macedonian".

After signing the agreement must be sent for ratification to the Macedonian Assembly (Parliament). After the parliamentarians approved the treaty, Greece must formally ask the EU and NATO to begin the process of joining Skopje in the organization.

The holding of a referendum by the authorities in Skopje is not a prerequisite, but in case of holding it, the result is also important for the implementation of the agreement.

An obligatory condition is the introduction of appropriate changes in the constitution of FYROM. The amendments must be adopted by the deputies and approved by the end of the year 2018, after which the contract will come into force.

Demonstrations in Athens against the agreement reached between Greece and Macedonia
Demonstrations in Athens against the agreement reached between Greece and Macedonia

The time has been set aside for the alteration of the names of state structures, official attributes and documents of Skopje.

By the time of the adoption of the amendments and the successful referendum, if a decision is made to hold it, Athens must have time to ratify the agreement in the Greek parliament.

At the end of ratification and amendment of the constitution, the parties are notified by international organizations, UN member states on the entry into force of the treaty, after which only the new name of the country will be used in international relations.

In addition, it is stipulated that the Macedonian authorities should conduct an audit of monuments and other heritage sites that refer to Greek culture and indicate their belonging to it.

Athens and Skopje also approve the existing borders between them as international and undertake not to support and not allow unfriendly activities towards the neighboring state.

The Path to NATO

The historical event aroused great interest - about 170 journalists, videographers, technicians were accredited, including from Bulgaria and Serbia.

Greece requires changing the name of the neighboring republic so that it is not confused with the Greek region of Macedonia, and believes that Skopje pursues a policy of irredentism, that is, attempts to reunite the territories with a divided people within a single state.

Although under the constitutional title "Republic of Macedonia" the country recognizes 142 states, due to Greece's position in international organizations it is included under the name "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

The dispute between the two countries, stretching almost 30 years, since the breakup of Yugoslavia, prevents the country from joining NATO and the European Union. In connection with the aspiration of the North Atlantic alliance already in July to accept Skopje in its ranks, the negotiations intensified in recent months.

The parties were in a hurry to complete the negotiations for the EU summit on June 11 and for the NATO summit on June 11th.

If Skopje does not amend the constitution concerning names and references that can be interpreted as irredentist, the invitation to join NATO is canceled and negotiations for accession to the European Union are not initiated.

However, both in Greece and in the former Yugoslav republic there are many opponents of the agreement. They accuse their governments of betraying their national interests. On the eve of the evening in the Greek parliament, at the request of the opposition, there was a vote of no confidence in the government of Tsipras, but the oppositionists could not dismiss the cabinet - 127 deputies voted for 300-local parliament.

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