The Latest: Greek PM predicts approval of Macedonia name
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia (all times local):
Greece’s prime minister says he expects no trouble in getting the proposed name change deal with Macedonia approved by the Greek parliament.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has also ruled out putting the agreement to a referendum.
Tsipras said in a television interview late Wednesday that he expects lawmakers to ratify the deal “with a big majority” even though the nationalist Independent Greeks party — the junior partner in his left-led coalition — plans to reject it.
Tsipras said he respects the party’s “principled” stance.
The Independent Greeks oppose any use of Macedonia in the official name of Greece’s small northern neighbor.
Under the agreement Tripras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Greece’s parliament will vote on ratifying the deal after Macedonia has changed its constitution to formalize the new name — North Macedonia.
About 1,500 people chanting “Traitors” have gathered outside Macedonia’s parliament in Skopje to protest the proposed deal with Greece over their country’s name change.
Protesters held flags and banners during Wednesday night’s demonstration, including one reading “We do have a name and that is Macedonia.” Despite a strong police presence, the protest organized on social media was peaceful.
Under the agreement announced by the two countries’ prime ministers Tuesday, the country will be renamed North Macedonia.
Greek opponents of the deal are planning a rally in central Athens on Friday.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov says he will not sign off on a new deal with neighboring Greece to end a decades-long dispute over his country’s name, potentially delaying implementation of the agreement.
Ivanov said Wednesday that he would not sign the agreement because it gave too many concessions to Greece. Under the deal reached between the two countries’ prime ministers Tuesday, Macedonia will be renamed Republic of North Macedonia.
The deal is expected to be signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers this weekend. After that, Macedonia’s parliament would vote on it, and if it is approved, Ivanov’s signature would be needed.
If he does not sign, the deal goes back to parliament for a second vote. He would then have to sign off on the agreement if it passed.
Kosovo says the deal of its southern neighbor Macedonia with Greece on its new name will contribute to peace, stability and Euro-Atlantic regional integration.
A statement Wednesday from Kosovo’s foreign ministry hailed the “historic agreement,” which showed that “when there is resolve, readiness and leadership through diplomacy, dialogue and bilateral respect, the most difficult issues can be solved.”
The conflict matters to neighboring Kosovo partly because of its large population of ethnic Albanians, who also make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million people. Besides Albania proper, ethnic Albanians in the Western Balkans region also live in Montenegro.
The deal calls for Macedonia to adopt a new name and become the Republic of Northern Macedonia.
The chancellor of Austria says the resolution of Macedonia’s name dispute will help drive forward the country’s bid to join the European Union.
Sebastian Kurz, whose country takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, said Wednesday that Austria “sees a clear European perspective for the entire Western Balkans and, of course, also for Macedonia.”
Speaking in Berlin, he congratulated Macedonia and Greece on ending their decades-long dispute over the name, which is also used by a Greek region.
The two sides agreed Tuesday that Macedonia will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia. A binding agreement is expected to be signed this weekend.
Kurz said “this definitely ensures that it will now be possible to push ahead with Macedonia’s accession process.”
Slovenia’s president says an agreement resolving a long-standing dispute between Greece and Macedonia gives a boost to other nations in the Balkans to solve the region’s problems.
Borut Pahor said Wednesday that he views the agreement for Macedonia’s new name, Republic of Northern Macedonia, as a “major signal encouraging resolution of bilateral and multilateral issues in the Western Balkans.”
He also said that the deal promotes “peace, security and the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the region.”
Tuesday’s agreement paves the way for Macedonia to advance in its bid to join the European Union and NATO.
Tensions stemming from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1990s’ have persisted in the Balkans despite international efforts at reconciliation.
EU officials have been brokering talks between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize.
Bulgarian officials have welcomed the agreement between neighboring Greece and Macedonia to resolve a long-standing dispute over the latter country’s name. But they warned that the deal should not be used for future territorial claims in the region.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Macedonia’s new name, Republic of Northern Macedonia, “opens the way for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our neighbor.”
Bulgaria was one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia in 1992 after it declared independence from Yugoslavia. But relations between Sofia and Skopje were strained for years over issues of identity, language and history.
A positive breakthrough in the relations was reached last year with the signing of a bilateral friendship pact in a region beset by ethnic and territorial disputes. Under the treaty, both countries have renounced territorial claims against each other, and Bulgaria has committed to back Macedonia’s bids to join the European Union and NATO.
The head of Greece’s main opposition party is criticizing a deal reached between Greece and Macedonia to end a decades-long dispute over the latter’s name, describing it as “deeply problematic.”
Conservative New Democracy party head Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on Greece’s president Wednesday to intervene so the deal can be debated in parliament before it is signed, instead of after. The agreement, under which Macedonia will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, is expected to be signed this weekend.
The name dispute has poisoned the two countries’ relations since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece wanted its northern neighbor to change its name, saying the term “Macedonia” implies a claim on the territory and ancient heritage of Greece’s province of the same name.