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Road signs replaced to reflect North Macedonia name change

February 14, 2019

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — It’s official: The Republic of North Macedonia has replaced Republic of Macedonia as part of a historic deal with Greece. The government gazette formally published the name deal Wednesday, opening the way for the renamed country’s accession to NATO and eventually the European Union. The United Nations announced late Wednesday that it had been officially notified that the North Macedonia name agreement with Greece had gone into effect.

As a first practical move, workers were replacing road signs on the border with Greece to reflect the name change, which ends a nearly three decade-long dispute with Greece over use of the term “Macedonia.” Later, the country will change signs at airports and on official buildings, web pages and printed materials.

Vehicle registration plates will also change, while passports and currency will be replaced over the coming years. The dispute dates back to the country’s 1991 declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. Athens argued the name implied claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and usurped its ancient Greek heritage. Although more than 130 countries did recognize the country as Macedonia, the United Nations and other international bodies used the cumbersome moniker “Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia,” agreed in an interim accord in 1995.

Hundreds of rounds of United Nations-brokered negotiations floundered until last year, when Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed to a compromise. The deal was has been met with vociferous objections by large sections of the public on both sides of the border, with critics in both countries accusing their respective governments of conceding too much to the other side.

As their country’s new name became a reality, reactions were mixed in Skopje. “I’m glad that we are moving forward. After 30 years of difficulties and isolation, my country has a future,” said Suzana Alcinova Monevska, a 55-year-old meteorologist. “I’m already feeling that with the new name, obstacles are removed. My company has already got many invitations in recent days to participate in EU-sponsored projects.”

But others were angered by the name change. Skopje resident Marinna Stevcevska, 55, said she was “deeply disappointed and emotionally hurt” by the change. “I will not change my passport as long as I can and I’m hoping that something will change to have the old name back,” she said. “I’ve promised to myself that if Macedonia changes its name, I’ll be leaving the country. I’m still thinking where to move.”

Among the first practical steps North Macedonia must now take is to inform the United Nations and all the countries that had previously recognized it as Macedonia that its name has now changed. The country’s customs administration will change all its digital records to reflect the new name within three days, while signs at airports and border crossings will be changed. Vehicle license plates will be changed within four months, while new passports will start being issued at the end of the year.

New currency will also be printed, but not quite yet. North Macedonian authorities say the National Bank will create a plan for the gradual replacement of the currency, with the first new banknotes being drawn up early next year.

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Macedonia prepares for name change by removing signs

February 11, 2019

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Authorities in Macedonia have begun removing official signs from government buildings to prepare for its new name: North Macedonia. “Government of the Republic of Macedonia” signs were removed from the country’s main government building early Monday in the capital Skopje.

The small Balkan country will change its name to North Macedonia after reaching a landmark agreement over the summer with neighboring Greece, which has a neighboring province called Macedonia. Macedonia is due to become a NATO member now that Greece’s parliament approved a measure Friday that would allow the country to join the alliance. Previously, Greece had blocked Macedonia’s accession to NATO.

Macedonia will now publish the deal with Greece in its government gazette so that it’s officially enshrined in law.

Macedonia admitted to NATO after resolving Greece dispute

FEB. 6, 2019

By Clyde Hughes

Feb. 6 (UPI) — Macedonia officially signed on Wednesday to become an official member of NATO, after resistance from Greece was settled last month.

Greece had long objected to membership over a dispute with the Macedonia name, which Athens uses for a Greek region in the north. Last month, the two countries settled the dispute when the country agreed to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. In exchange for the name change, Greece agreed to drop its veto toward Macedonia’s NATO admittance.

The signing allows the Balkan nation to take part in NATO activities as an invitee while the 29 member nations ratify the agreement in their own countries. Macedonia will formally change its name after Greece’s ratification.

“NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other,” NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Macedonia already contributes to NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan and the alliance’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

“This wasn’t inevitable — this wasn’t even very likely to happen,” Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said. “The impossible is actually doable. This is a family that strives to make our world more peaceful and a better place.

“This is a journey that has made us more mature… we have proven that we can assume our responsibility, face a problem, and resolve those problems.”

Macedonia and Greece have squabbled over the name — which has been around since Alexander The Great’s reign in the region during late B.C. — since 1991 when the country broke away from the former Yugoslavia.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/02/06/Macedonia-admitted-to-NATO-after-resolving-Greece-dispute/6431549457608/.

Macedonian PM: Greece’s turn to make history with name deal

January 12, 2019

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia’s prime minister says he expects Greece’s parliament to do its part and ratify the deal changing his country’s name to North Macedonia so it can soon join NATO. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters in the capital of Skopje on Saturday that he expects neighboring Greece to be the first country to sign the accession protocol for Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member.

NATO formally invited Macedonia to join the military alliance in 2008, but Greece vetoed the move, claiming that Macedonia’s name implies territorial aspirations toward Greece’s northern province with the same name as well as appropriating Greece’s historical heritage.

Zaev said that Macedonian lawmakers had “made history” Friday with their decision to back the constitutional changes associated with the name change. “I know how difficult that was … we are putting the bitterness in the past and we are looking now proudly to the future,” Zaev said.

He said he now expects Greece’s parliament to convene and do the same, and unblock Macedonia’s NATO membership. Zaev said that Greece has “got a new friend now North Macedonia,” adding that he hopes the two nations will build up trust and open “many new windows” for cooperation.

But in Greece, the upcoming parliamentary vote on the name change ratification has frayed relations between Greece’s coalition partners. Greek defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party, is vehemently opposed to the deal. He has repeatedly threatened to pull his lawmakers out of the government, although he has sent mixed signals on whether he will bring down the government in a vote of confidence.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Kammenos will meet Sunday morning to discuss their differences. A Greek government spokeswoman told The Associated Press that by Monday, or at least later in the week, the timeline for ratification will be clearer. The vote could possibly even take place this month, unless a confidence motion, invoked either by Tsipras or by the opposition New Democracy party, is discussed first.

Several lawmakers from small center-left parties, as well as at least two from Kammenos’ party, have indicated they are ready to vote for the name deal. Tsipras, who has the unquestioned backing of the 145-strong Syriza parliamentary group, has repeatedly expressed certainty that he will find the 151 votes to ensure ratification of the name deal by a majority in the 300-member Parliament.

The Macedonian parliament’s ratification has been hailed by several foreign leaders, including NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Adding his congratulations late Friday, was Matthew Nimetz, the U.N. Secretary-General’s personal envoy on the name dispute since 1999, saying that the agreement paves the way for “a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans.”

“I wish to congratulate the (Macedonian) parliament and the country’s citizens for this accomplishment and for the democratic manner in which this important process was undertaken,” he said.

Nellas reported from Athens, Greece.

Macedonia vote rattles government in neighbor Greece

January 11, 2019

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia’s center-left government is holding emergency talks for a second day to try to secure the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to finalize constitutional changes for a landmark deal with neighbor Greece.

Talks between government and opposition lawmakers continued Friday following repeated delays in the vote. The governments of Macedonia and Greece are both struggling to secure the political support required to ratify the agreement reached last June, under which the landlocked Balkan nation would change its name to North Macedonia and Greece would lift objections to its accession to NATO.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a working visit to Athens, has expressed strong support for the agreement. But the issue has brought Greece’s coalition government to the brink of breakup.

Macedonia offers partial amnesty for storming of parliament

December 18, 2018

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonian lawmakers have approved a law offering amnesty to some suspected perpetrators of a violent storming of parliament last year, seeking to boost reconciliation in a deeply polarized society.

All 95 lawmakers present in the 120-seat parliament Tuesday backed a draft amnesty law over the April 2017 incident. But the amnesty won’t cover organizers of the intrusion and protesters who committed physical violence.

According to the new law, people suspected of participating in the melee, who are on trial before Skopje’s criminal court, can now file requests for amnesty. A total of 33 people — including conservative opposition lawmakers and supporters — are on trial over the incident, when an angry mob stormed parliament to block the election of a new speaker. More than 100 people, including lawmakers, were injured.

Macedonia pro-opposition rally staged against name deal

November 28, 2018

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Several thousand supporters of Macedonia’s conservative opposition have marched through the capital Skopje to protest a proposed agreement with Greece to change the country’s name to North Macedonia.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, which governed between 2006 and 2016, renewed a demand Wednesday for an early election, arguing that the 18-month-old Social Democrat government was unable to deal with crises facing the country.

The protesters gathered outside the conservative party headquarters and marched past government buildings, chanting “Macedonia, Macedonia” and waving nationalist banners. VMRO-DPMNe party leader Hristijan Mickoski addressed the rally, which ended peacefully.

Resolving the decades-old name dispute with Greece would clear obstacles for Macedonia to join NATO.

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