Greece and the Republic of Macedonia have not been the friendliest of neighbours. In fact, they have been at loggerheads for 28 years over the usage of the word ‘Macedonia’, which the Greek claim was synonymous with their country. A large part of Greece is in the area known as Macedonia at one time, and was ruled by one of the greatest kings in history, Alexander the Great.
The Greeks believe that the small Republic of Macedonia (used to be part of Yugoslavia) was trying to claim as theirs, the culture and history of the Greek civilisation by using the term Republic of Macedonia. It also created confusion as there is a large area in Greece also called Macedonia. This name game left both sides upset and annoyed. Greece had put an embargo (ban) on the Republic of Macedonia and had blocked their entry into NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
Finally, both countries managed to compromise on this, and other issues when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart in Macedonia, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, came to an agreement (The Prespa Agreement) when the Republic agreed to use the term ‘North Macedonia’, marking both areas clear and separate. Though the deal was done in mid-2018, it was passed in early Jan 2019 in North Macedonia and was just ratified by the Greek Parliament on 25th January 2019.
Sounds great! Why did it take so long to reach this agreement? Not everyone is happy. The Greek Parliament debated over this topic for days, even postponing the vote once so that every possible detail could be discussed and debated. Many Greek citizens also felt betrayed, and protests broke out in the capital, Athens, as well as in the northern area of Macedonia. They think that letting the other country may use the term ‘Macedonia’ in their name to lay claim to some Greek property and to Greek history.
However, the European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted, “Mission impossible accomplished.” Let’s hope that just like the movie, this also has a happy ending.
Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.