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Thanks, Greece: North Macedonia’s Telling Everyone Its New Name

February 16, 2019

SKOPJE, North Macedonia  — It took 28 years but the country that broke away from the collapse of Yugoslavia finally has an official name recognized by the world: North Macedonia.

It had been The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a temporary acronym agreed with a then-ruling New Democracy government that first gave away the name of the ancient Greek province.

But after successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, Greece used a veto to keep its neighbor out of NATO and European Union hopes.

That ended when anti-nationalist Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader, whose party doesn’t believe in borders, made a deal with his counterpart in FYROM, Premier Zoran Zaev for the name change and lifting the Greek vetoes.

Tsipras said he did it because 140 countries were already calling FYROM as Macedonia – which FYROM did as well, including in the United Nations – and the agreement also allows citizens of North Macedonia to call themselves Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity, opposed by two-thirds of Greeks.

What Greece got in return was the geographical qualifier North.

The Foreign Ministry of the newly-renamed North Macedonia said it formally informed the United Nations, UN member states and international bodies that its new name has come into effect under an historic deal to end a long dispute with neighboring Greece.

The ministry said in a press release Feb. 14 it submitted relevant notes to “the United Nation’s Protocol, member and observer states, and to all international, multilateral and regional organizations.”

The country was officially renamed North Macedonia on Feb. 12, and as a first move to reflect the change, authorities have replaced road signs on the border with Greece.

The move is a precursor to a series of steps that the renamed country will take as part of the agreement, including changing airport signs, web pages and printed materials.

The UN said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received official notification that an agreement has taken effect. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said 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,” using the names of the capitals of the countries.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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