FYROM name change deal with Greece signed by leaders

Outside the parliament building in Athens police fired teargas as thousands protested against the deal

Since 1991, Greece has objected to its neighbor being called Macedonia as it has its own province of the same name.

Also at the ceremony were the UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Rosemary di Carlo; the UN mediator for the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz; the EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini; and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the Independent Greeks party, the junior party in the government, stressed that Saturday's vote was not on the Macedonia name deal.

The agreement still needs to be approved by Macedonia's parliament and pass a referendum. Opponents include the conservative opposition party and the country’s president Gjorge Ivanov, who has said he will not sign off on the agreement.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov signed the deal with Tsipras and Zaev present in Psarades, a small fishing village in Greece, just a day after the Greek prime minister survived a no-confidence vote over his handling of the longstanding disagreement.

Despite the two government's determination to settle the name dispute, hardliners in both sides vow to block the implementation of the deal.

"It is a very good day for both countries, it is a very good day for the European Union, for Europe and of course for the Balkans", Mogherini said.

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"We have forces that are fighting for the future, we have forces that are fighting for the past", Dimitrov said in Skopje. That would leave Tsipras dependent on the support of opposition parties.

The protesters plan to remain outside parliament until the censure vote, while another demonstration will be held on the border on Sunday.

Ordinary Macedonians now have more information on the deal as on June 15, the government chose to declassify it and make it available for public. All historical texts in school books that are disputed by the Greek side will have to be revised. The deal will also allow Macedonia to try to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

The naming row between the two countries began 27 years ago when FYROM declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but has roots going back to antiquity.

Specifically, by officially recognizing a Macedonian language and nationality, it is nearly certain that the country will be called Macedonia by the broader world, instead of North Macedonia, opponents of the deal argue.

Zaev also hailed the deal, saying it "put an end to the longstanding problems which aggravated our bilateral ties". That is expected to occur by the end of the year.

Zaev said earlier that the agreement will strengthen the Macedonian national identity, which is one of the main concerns for local population. The people's nationality will be defined as "Macedonian/Citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia".

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