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Macedonia signs historic agreement with Greece to change its name

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (back R) and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (back L) during the signing ceremony on Sunday.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (back R) and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (back L) during the signing ceremony on Sunday. Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Sunday signed a landmark pact to change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in a move to resolve a decades-old dispute with Greece, the Guardian reports.

Why it matters: While the accord still has to be accepted by Macedonians in a referendum and ratified by both countries' parliaments, the deal would allow Macedonia to potentially join NATO and the European Union as it has been blocked in the past by Greece.

The backdrop: For decades, Greece has been outraged over the former Yugoslav republic’s use of the name Macedonia, claiming it implies that 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 happening: The deal has provoked protests over the weekend and political opposition on both sides of the border. The New York Times reports that seven out of 10 Greeks oppose the agreement, citing a weekend opinion poll published by the Proto Thema newspaper.

  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday survived a no-confidence motion against his government over the accord, orchestrated by the country's main opposition party.
  • In Macedonia, President Gjorge Ivanov is reportedly against the agreement, which has also triggered protests in Skopje, the Macedonian capital.
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