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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.

Image source Wikimedia

Macedonia to Become Republic of North Macedonia after Reaching Name Deal with Greece

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

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.

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Greece and Macedonia have reached a deal regarding the latter’s name, which called itself Macedonia at the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

After 27 years of talks – and many protests, Greece and its northern neighbor have settled on the name Republic of North Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in Macedonian.

Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region.

It had vetoed Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and the European Union.

The name Republic of North Macedonia will now need to be approved by the Macedonian people and Greek parliament.

Under the deal, the country known at the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.

Its language will be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

Image source Wikimedia

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

The two countries agreed that the new name would be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognize the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.

They also agreed that the English name could be used as well as the Slavic term.

The two sides had earlier dropped a number of alternatives, including Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and Ilinden Macedonia.

The name Macedonia already belongs to a northern region of Greece that includes the country’s second city Thessaloniki. By adopting the same identity in 1991, the new Slavic nation infuriated many Greeks, who suspected their northern neighbor of territorial ambitions.

The new Macedonians did not help matters when they named the main airport in the capital, Skopje, after Ancient Greek hero Alexander the Great, as well as a key motorway running from the Serbian to the Greek border.

During the 4th Century BC, the Macedonia of Alexander and his father Philip II before him ruled all of Greece and much beyond it.

When the Ottomans were driven out of the broad region known as Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, it was split up, mainly between Greece and Serbia, but a small part went to Bulgaria.

In World War Two, Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia were occupied by Bulgaria, an ally of Nazi Germany and Italy. Communists from both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria played a part in the Greek civil war that followed, so memories are still raw.

When Yugoslavia broke up, Greece would only accept the new country as “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)” at the UN, even though much of the world came to recognize it as Macedonia.

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The International Court of Justice has ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide against each other’s populations during the Balkan wars that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The Croatian government had alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991.

Serbia later filed a counter-claim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.

About 20,000 people died during the 1991-1995 war, mostly Croatians.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

The Croatian town of Vukovar was devastated when it was occupied by Serbs for three months in 1991. Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and about 260 Croat men were detained and killed.

Four years later, the Croatian military’s Operation Storm bombarded the majority ethnic-Serb Krajina area, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes.

Speaking in UN’s highest court on February 3, Judge Peter Tomka dismissed both the Croatian claim and the Serbian counter-claim.

Forces on both sides had carried out violent acts during the war, Judge Tomka said. However, neither side had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the “specific intent required for acts of genocide”.

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Serbia is holding a state funeral for Yugoslavia’s last king, Peter II, and three other members of his family.

King Peter II acceded to the throne in 1941, aged 17, but fled 11 days later when the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia. He never returned and died in the US in 1970.

The funeral is also being held for his wife, Queen Alexandria, his mother Queen Maria, and brother Prince Andrew.

After the memorial service, they will be buried in the family mausoleum.

Serb leaders and foreign dignitaries were attending Sunday’s service, at St George’s Church in Oplenac, near Belgrade.

The coffins of the four members of the royal family were laid out in the centre of the church before they were to be placed in the crypt, alongside their ancestors.

King Peter II had originally been interred in Libertyville, Illinois, his wife in Greece and his mother near Windsor Castle in the UK.

Serbia is holding a state funeral for Yugoslavia's last king, Peter II, and three other members of his family

Serbia is holding a state funeral for Yugoslavia’s last king, Peter II, and three other members of his family

President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic were both involved in the preparations for the funeral.

Although modern-day Serbia has the royal coat of arms on its flag, the attitudes of Serbs towards their old royal family is hard to gauge.

Peter went to school in England but returned home aged 11 when his father, King Alexander I, was assassinated in France in 1934. His brother, Prince Pavle, became Prince Regent until he was overthrown in a military coup for signing a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.

For almost 50 years it was part of socialist Yugoslavia. At the end of World War II, Iosip Broz Tito’s communists abolished the monarchy.

“Most people would say it’s doing historical justice to a dynasty that was chased away from Serbia in 1945,” says historian Vladimir Dulovic.

“Except maybe today, by spending 50 years out of the country, they’ve grown a little too foreign for us.”

King Peter II’s son, Alexander Karadjordjevic, often described as crown prince, moved to Serbia in 2001.

An enthusiastic promoter of constitutional monarchy for Serbia, Alexander Karadjordjevic argues that a king removed from the country’s sometimes fractious politics would be a stabilizing figure.

However, According to a recent newspaper poll, only around 40% of Serbs agree.

In October 2012, three other members of Yugoslavia’s former royal family were exhumed in Switzerland and reburied in the Oplenac church crypt.

Yugoslavia’s royal family:

  • 1804      Founder of dynasty, Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjordjevic or “Black George”, leads Serb uprising against Ottomans
  • 1811      Karadjordjevic confirmed as ruler
  • 1918      Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes proclaimed
  • 1929      Kingdom of Yugoslavia declared
  • 1934      King Alexander I assassinated in Marseille
  • 1941      King Peter II goes into exile
  • 1945      Crown Prince Alexander II born in London. Iosip Broz Tito’s communists abolish monarchy
  • 1970      Peter II dies in US