Greece and Macedonia reached a historic settlement Tuesday to their long-simmering dispute over the name Macedonia — shared by the former Yugoslav republic and an ancient region of northern Greece.
Under the deal between the two prime ministers, the country will now be called The Republic of North Macedonia.
“Our investment in the compromise is a definition of a specified Macedonian name for our country, a dignified and geographically defined name,” Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the deal ends any claim he believes Macedonia may have had on Greek territory.
“This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia, and our northern neighbors. … [Macedonia] cannot and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilization of Macedonia.”
Greece will also stop blocking Macedonia’s efforts to join NATO and the European Union.
European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated both sides. “Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible,” he tweeted.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the deal and Macedonia’s possible membership “will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans.”
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the settlement will have “positive repercussions” in Europe and beyond, and hopes it will inspire others to negotiate deals to end other “protracted conflicts.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the deal will bolster regional security and prosperity and that the United States congratulates both prime ministers for their “vision, courage and persistence.”
She said Washington also thanks United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz for spending the last 20 years committed to finding a solution.
But Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks Party, said his party will not vote to ratify the agreement.
Other Greeks said the new name should not even include the word Macedonia, while backers reject nationalism and said the dispute has gone on long enough.
Opponents in Macedonia have called any alteration of the country’s name a form of treason and a cave-in to Greek demands.
Zaev said he will put the deal to a vote in a referendum, while the Greek parliament will consider ratification before the end of the year.
Tsipras said if Macedonia does not change its constitution to reflect the new name, Greece will again block Macedonian membership in NATO and the EU.