Macedonia and Greece have signed an agreement settling a 27-year-long dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Under the agreement, the country known at the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will become North Macedonia.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was “a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples”.
Heated rows over Macedonia’s name have been going on since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, of which it was a part, and have held up Macedonia’s entry to NATO and the EU.
Greece has long argued that by using the name Macedonia, its neighbor was implying it had a claim on the northern Greek province also called Macedonia.
The deal has been announced on June 12 and has pressed ahead despite protests.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev watched as their foreign ministers signed the deal on Lake Prespa on Greece’s northern border on June 17.
The agreement still needs to be approved by both parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia.
Nationalists on both sides say it erodes their identity.
On June 16, PM Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote over the deal amid accusations he made too many concessions.
Under the deal, Macedonia would be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.
Its language would be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).
As part of the agreement, Greece would lift its objections to the renamed nation joining the EU and NATO.
There is still some way to go before the name change becomes official.
The Macedonian parliament first needs to back the deal. That would be followed by a referendum in September or October.
If Macedonian voters support it, the government would have to change the constitution, which is a key Greek demand.
Things have been complicated further as Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov is refusing to sign the agreement.
President Ivanov has the power to veto the deal – but not indefinitely.
If the president refuses to sign the agreement, it will be sent back to parliament for a second vote. If it passes again, the president would then be obliged to approve the legislation.
The agreement will finally have to be ratified by the Greek parliament, a process which may also not be straightforward.