GREECE - FYROM
"Historic" agreement on name change
The foreign ministers of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM and Greece have signed a historic agreement on a modified name for the former Yugoslav republic, a major step in ending a 27-year dispute.
The agreement, signed on June 17 at Lake Prespa along the border separating the countries, paves the way for FYROM to seek membership in the European Union and NATO.
Nationalists in both countries had bitterly opposed the proposed change, which calls for Macedonia to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.
The two countriesí prime ministers -- Zoran Zaev of FYROM and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras -- attended the signing ceremony in the Greek fishing village of Psarades, along with United Nations and European officials.
"Our peoples want peace...We will be partners and allies," Zaev said.
Tsipras, who survived a no-confidence vote by Greek conservative New Democracy party, described the agreement as a "brave, historic, and necessary step for our peoples."
"We are here to heal the wounds of time, to open a path for peace, fraternization, and growth for our countries, the Balkans, and Europe," Mr Tsipras added.
The deal still needs to be approved by a FYROM referendum in September, after which Greek parliament must ratify it.
The AFP news agency reported that Greek riot police blocked a few hundred protesters several kilometers away from the ceremony.
The accord was met with strong opposition internally in both countries, which could pose obstacles and delays for its ratification in their national parliaments.
On the eve of the signing ceremony , the Greek opposition party, New Democracy, launched a no-confidence vote in parliament against Tsipras, accusing him of granting too many concessions to Macedonia.
A few thousands of Greeks protested outside parliament on the day of the no-confidence motion, calling for Тsiprasís resignation, and police fired tear gas to keep them from entering the building.
In FYROM, in a vote boycotted by 51 opposition MPs, the ruling coalition in FYROMís 120-seat parliament, led by the Social Democrats of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, approved the agreement. President Gjorge Ivanov has pledged however, to veto the deal ratified by Skopjeís parliament.
FYROM government officials have said that with the deal in hand, they hope to secure a date to begin EU accession talks at a summit later this month and an invitation to join NATO by mid-July.
The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia. Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region. Greek PM Tsipras, said that the agreement deals with all issues and guarantees the integrity of the Hellenic Republic.
Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece, an EU and NATO member, has also cited the dispute to veto FYROMís bid to join the two organizations.