The Latest: UN officially notified of North Macedonia change
SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The latest on the change of name that has created North Macedonia (all times local):
The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has received official notification that an agreement has taken effect giving the new name Republic of North Macedonia to the former Republic of Macedonia, which at the United Nations was called “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said late Wednesday that Guterres “welcomes this development, which settles the long-standing dispute between Athens and Skopje and demonstrates that even seemingly intractable issues can be resolved through dialogue and political will.”
The dispute dates back to the 1991 declaration of independence by what is now North Macedonia to break away from Yugoslavia. Greece argued the name Republic of Macedonia implied claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and usurped its ancient Greek heritage.
Dujarric said the secretary-general “calls on member states, regional organizations and all international partners to support the historical steps that the parties have taken.”
North Macedonia’s defense minister, Radmila Sekerinska, says she’s filled with pride as her country takes a seat at NATO’s table for the first time.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday at a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Sekerinska said North Macedonia has “shown that change is possible if you have the right amount of political leadership.”
NATO allies signed a key text this month that launched the country’s membership process.
The small Balkans country changed its name from Macedonia on Tuesday. It will be accepted as a full member late this year or early in 2020 once parliaments have endorsed the text. Until then, it can take part in NATO meetings as a guest.
Greece had blocked membership because it saw the previous name as a threat to its own Macedonia region.
Workers in the newly renamed North Macedonia have begun replacing road signs to reflect the change in their country’s name, following a deal with neighboring Greece to end a nearly three decade-long dispute and secure NATO membership.
Workers were removing “Republic of Macedonia” road signs at a border crossing with Greece Wednesday, a precursor to a series of steps the country will take as part of the agreement, including changing signs at airports, on official buildings, web pages and printed materials.
Vehicle registration plates will also change, while passports and currency will be replaced over the coming years.
The name change resolves a dispute with Greece dating back to the country’s 1991 independence from Yugoslavia. Athens argued the name implied claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia.