SKOPJE – Macedonian officials symbolically installed on Wednesday at the main border crossing with Greece the first sign showing the new name of the country after a decades-long dispute between the neighboring nations was resolved.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has officially changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, a move that makes a distinction between the country and a region in northern Greece, also known as Macedonia.
Skopje and Athens signed an agreement in June 2018 on the shores of Lake Prespa, a symbolic location shared between Macedonia and Greece (and Albania), in a bid to end the name issue.
From Wednesday, the Balkan state of two million people started to officially use its new name, which was finally agreed upon last year after 27 years of negotiations with Greece under the mediation of the United Nations.
Shortly before midnight Tuesday, the Macedonian government changed its name on its official website to “Government of the Republic of North Macedonia,” to reflect the change.
As part of the agreement inked with Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia must now change name signs at all border crossings, as well as at its two airports in Skopje and Ohrid.
Official websites must also reflect the change.
The agreement stipulated that Skopje accepted the new name and would not seek to make any claims toward the heritage of the historically-important northern Greek region of Macedonia.
Greece agreed that the adjective “Macedonian” could be used to describe the language spoken by the ethnic Macedonian majority in North Macedonia, as well as for citizenship, along with “of North Macedonia.”
The development has paved the way for North Macedonia’s accession to NATO, and the country was also expected to be able to join the European Union. Greece had previously vetoed the country’s accession to both organizations.
The name issue emerged soon after North Macedonia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991.
Athens has claimed “Macedonia” exclusively relates to its historical heritage, with some Greeks expressing concern that the former name could have led to territorial claims.
North Macedonia was only admitted to the UN in 1993 under the now-defunct name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, following Greek objections.