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The Bitter Battle Over the Name ‘Macedonia,’ Explained

A Balkan Nation Vies To Join The West In Vote To Change Its Name
Photographer: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg
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A dispute that divided Balkan neighbors for more than seven decades, over what constitutes “Macedonia,” has finally reached a resolution. The Republic of Macedonia agreed to rename itself the Republic of North Macedonia to assuage complaints from Greece. In turn, Greece dropped its opposition to plans by the former Yugoslav state to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. That has paved the way for the two alliances to expand in a region that was traditionally in Russia’s sphere of influence.

Greece had long argued that the name Macedonia should refer only to its northern region, which was Alexander the Great’s stronghold in ancient times. Like all NATO and EU members, it can veto new admissions. To defend its claim to the name, Greece blocked the Republic of Macedonia’s accession to the military alliance in 2008 and later halted the start of its negotiations to join the EU. In June 2018, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart in Skopje, Zoran Zaev, agreed on the name change, but it took until January 2019 for final approvals on both sides. The change took effect after Greece signed off on North Macedonia’s accession to NATO in February.