- REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
- Macedonia’s president said Wednesday he would not support an agreement reached between his country’s prime minister and Greece to change the Balkan country’s name.
- Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov said the agreement was “shameful” and gave too many concessions to Greece.
- The move aims to appease Greece, which had long opposed the country’s use of Macedonia because it shares the same name as Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.
- The new name, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, will now have to be approved by Macedonians via a referendum as well as by both countries’ parliaments, and would require Ivanov’s signature.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said Wednesday he would not support an agreement reached between his country’s prime minister and Greece to change the Balkan country’s name.
Just hours after the deal was announced, Ivanov told reporters at a televised news conference that “such a harmful agreement, which is unique in the history of mankind, is shameful and unacceptable for me.”
Prime ministers of the two countries had agreed earlier this week to refer to Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in the Macedonian language, which would effectively end a 27-year feud between the two nations. The name change is an effort to prevent territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.
However, Ivanov remained firm on his position, saying that the agreement gave too many concessions to Greece.
“My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats. I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement,” he said.
The president is backed by the nationalist opposition group VMRO-DPMNE, whose leader Hristijan Mickoski said the party will “oppose this deal of capitulation with all democratic and legal means.”
The capital of Skopje adopted the name of Macedonia in 1991 following its independence from former Yugoslavia, and Greece vetoed the country’s bid to join NATO and the European Union over the name dispute. Ending the feud would open up the possibility for Macedonia to become a member of Europe, a goal Macedonia has held since it applied for full membership in 2004.
Any name change will have to be approved by Macedonians via a referendum as well as by the country’s parliament, which would require Ivanov’s signature. If Ivanov refuses to sign, the agreement would circle back to parliament for a second vote. If it passed a second time, Ivanov would legally be required to sign.
The Greek parliament will also have to agree to the proposal, however resistance to the deal remains.
The leader of of Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, called the agreement “deeply problematic” because he said most Greeks opposed it and that the country’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, did not have the authority to sign it, Reuters said.
Sources told Reuters that New Democracy may submit a vote of no confidence in the country’s government in response.