Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov says an agreement reached Tuesday with Greece to change his country’s name is detrimental for the Republic of Macedonia and that he would not sign it into law.
In a televised national address, Ivanov said the agreement reached between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras violates constitutional law. The deal called for Macedonia to be renamed as the Republic of North Macedonia.
“The government did not have the strength and courage to initiate the building of a common stance and consensus,” he said. “The entire process lacked transparency and the end result is a testimony to this.”
The vast majority of Ivanov’s opposition VMRO-DPMNE party have long said they would refuse to support such a deal, which has been in the works the 20 years. Although Zaev’s ruling party negotiated the name change, Macedonian law says any international agreements require a presidential signature for ratification.
Greece and Macedonia have been feuding over who gets to use the name since Macedonia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Many Greeks say allowing the neighboring country to use the name insults Greek history and implies a claim on the Greek territory also known as Macedonia — a key province in Alexander the Great’s ancient empire.
As a result, Greece has blocked Macedonian efforts to join the EU and NATO. Despite recognition by 137 countries, Macedonia is officially known at the U.N. as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM.
This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service.