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Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia sign agreement in Psarades, Florina, Grece Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia sign agreement in Psarades, Florina, Grece  (ANSA)

Leaders of Greece and Macedonia sign away a 27-year old enmity

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia got together today to approve the signing of an agreement that hopefully ends a stubborn 27-year diplomatic spat over Macedonia’s name.

by John Carr

The event took place at a tiny Greek fishing village at scenic Lake Prespa, where the borders of Greece, Macedonia and Albania meet.  Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras called the deal historic, saying he hopes it will remove a chronic source of Balkan tensions.  Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev gave a similar conciliatory speech.

Zaev agreed that his country’s name should henceforth be North Macedonia, as plain Macedonia grates too much on Greek historical sensibilities, which was the cause of the whole problem. 

Doing the actual signing were the two countries’ foreign ministers.  Signalling warm approval from Brussels was the presence of Federica Mogherini, the European foreign affairs commissioner, among a bevy of officials and news media crews.

After the signing, Tsipras and Zaev and the official parties took motor launches across Lake Prespa to the Macedonian side for a well-earned lunch.

Here in Athens last night Tsipras had survived a no-confidence motion tabled by the conservative New Democracy party that opposes the Macedonia deal, calling it a sellout of Greece’s history and traditions.  A great many ordinary Greeks feel likewise, and are planning widespread demonstrations against the Macedonia agreement, especially in the northern part of the country.

The agreement comes up for ratification in the Greek parliament after the summer.  But given the state of public feeling, it’s an open question whether Tsipras will be able to win that vote as well.

Listen to John Carr's report
17 June 2018, 16:49