By Josh Friedman
The Balkan country Macedonia, also known as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, will now be formally renamed North Macedonia following a vote in the Greek parliament that ratified a deal between Athens and Skopje and brought an end to a nearly three-decade dispute between the two sides.
Athens had long objected to its northern neighbor using the name Macedonia, which is also the name of a northern region in Greece. Greeks alleged their mainly Slavic neighbors to the north were appropriating Greek history and using a name that did not belong to them.
For years, Athens had been using its veto power to keep Skopje from joining NATO and the EU under the name Macedonia. The agreement reached last year, which has now been ratified by both countries’ governments, paves the way for now-North Macedonia to join NATO and eventually the EU.
Despite being applauded by western governments and international institutions, the Macedonia name agreement spurred large protests on both side of the border. Nationalists in Greece and now-North Macedonia protested the deal until the bitter end.
Greek voters were not given the chance to approve or reject the deal in a referendum. Macedonia did hold a referendum, though the results were inconclusive.
Macedonians who did vote in the referendum overwhelmingly approved the deal. But voter turnout was well below the threshold that would make the results binding.
For more background on the name deal and sentiments in Greece and now-North Macedonia, here are reports from Skopje and Thessaloniki, the capital of the Greek Macedonia region: