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Macedonia agrees to change its name to end dispute with Greece

Greece's Prime minister Alexis Tsipras (R) and Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev
Greece's Prime minister Alexis Tsipras (R) and Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Bringing a 27-year dispute with Greece to a close, Macedonia's government on Tuesday struck an agreement to change the country’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The backdrop: Ever since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Athens had used its veto power to block the country’s admission to NATO and the European Union, per BBC News. That’s because it claimed the name Macedonia could imply it's coveting Greek territory and heritage. Macedonia was already the name of a northern region of Greece before the new Slavic nation adopted it.

What's next: The new name will have to be approved by Macedonians through a referendum, as well as by the country's parliament — possibly by September or October, per BBC. The Greek parliament must also sign off on the proposal.

  • The Wall Street Journal notes that the proposal still faces an uphill battle because many "Greek nationalists reject any non-Hellenic claim to the name, even in a composite form. Hardliners in Macedonia, meanwhile, oppose any composite name imposed under foreign pressure."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the prime ministers of both countries for their "willingness" to resolve the dispute.