FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct, 8, 2014 file photo, a modern bronze statue of Alexander the Great is flanked by copies of round shields and the Macedonian infantry's Sarissa pikes, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 10:40 am
Austria: Macedonia deal boosts country's EU bid
ATHENS, Greece – The Latest on the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia (all times local):
The chancellor of Austria says the resolution of Macedonia's name dispute will help drive forward the country's bid to join the European Union.
Sebastian Kurz, whose country takes over the EU's rotating presidency in July, said Wednesday that Austria "sees a clear European perspective for the entire Western Balkans and, of course, also for Macedonia."
Speaking in Berlin, he congratulated Macedonia and Greece on ending their decades-long dispute over the name, which is also used by a Greek region.
The two sides agreed Tuesday that Macedonia will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia. A binding agreement is expected to be signed this weekend.
Kurz said "this definitely ensures that it will now be possible to push ahead with Macedonia's accession process."
Slovenia's president says an agreement resolving a long-standing dispute between Greece and Macedonia gives a boost to other nations in the Balkans to solve the region's problems.
Borut Pahor said Wednesday that he views the agreement for Macedonia's new name, Republic of Northern Macedonia, as a "major signal encouraging resolution of bilateral and multilateral issues in the Western Balkans."
He also said that the deal promotes "peace, security and the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the region."
Tuesday's agreement paves the way for Macedonia to advance in its bid to join the European Union and NATO.
Tensions stemming from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1990s' have persisted in the Balkans despite international efforts at reconciliation.
EU officials have been brokering talks between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize.
Bulgarian officials have welcomed the agreement between neighboring Greece and Macedonia to resolve a long-standing dispute over the latter country's name. But they warned that the deal should not be used for future territorial claims in the region.
Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Macedonia's new name, Republic of Northern Macedonia, "opens the way for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our neighbor."
Bulgaria was one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia in 1992 after it declared independence from Yugoslavia. But relations between Sofia and Skopje were strained for years over issues of identity, language and history.
A positive breakthrough in the relations was reached last year with the signing of a bilateral friendship pact in a region beset by ethnic and territorial disputes. Under the treaty, both countries have renounced territorial claims against each other, and Bulgaria has committed to back Macedonia's bids to join the European Union and NATO.
The head of Greece's main opposition party is criticizing a deal reached between Greece and Macedonia to end a decades-long dispute over the latter's name, describing it as "deeply problematic."
Conservative New Democracy party head Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on Greece's president Wednesday to intervene so the deal can be debated in parliament before it is signed, instead of after. The agreement, under which Macedonia will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, is expected to be signed this weekend.
The name dispute has poisoned the two countries' relations since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece wanted its northern neighbor to change its name, saying the term "Macedonia" implies a claim on the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's province of the same name.