June 12 (UPI) — Macedonia reached an agreement with Greece to change its name on Tuesday, ending a 27-year dispute between the two countries.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reached an agreement with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to change the country’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in acknowledgement of the Greek region of Macedonia across the border.
Both countries’ parliaments must ratify the deal and Macedonia is expected to hold a referendum on the change.
“There is no way back,” said Zaev.
The name will be used both internally by the government and externally when conducting foreign affairs.
Macedonia was previously only recognized by organizations such as the United Nations by the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
A spokesman for United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres issued a statement commending the countries for reaching the agreement.
“The Secretary‑General urges all citizens in both countries to come together to move the process forward. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to provide all necessary support, both through his Personal Envoy and through the relevant UN agencies, funds and programs,” the spokesman said.
In exchange for agreeing to the name change Greece agreed to lift its vetoes against Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn also issued a joint statement congratulating the two leaders on the agreement.
“This achievement belongs to the leaders of the two countries and their teams, but first and foremost it belongs to all the citizens of both countries, and of Europe as a whole,” they said.