Macedonia PM Zoran Zaev (L) and Greek PM Alexis Tsipras met in June last year when the name-change deal was signed. File photo/ AFP
SKOPJE: Greece’s prime minister will on Tuesday pay a historic visit to newly renamed North Macedonia to join in marking the end of a decades-long identity row between the two countries.
Alexis Tsipras is making the first official visit by a Greek premier since North Macedonia’s 1991 independence. The one-day trip comes a month after he and his Skopje counterpart, Zoran Zaev, finalised the deal that added “North” to Macedonia’s name to distinguish it from a bordering province in Greece.
The name-change settled a dispute that had roiled diplomatic ties for nearly three decades as the neighbours tussled for ownership of the name Macedonia and its cultural heritage.
The key trade-off for Skopje was assurance that Athens would stop thwarting its efforts to join NATO and the European Union.
Now the neighbours are also touting the promise of boosting economic ties, with Tsipras bringing along 10 ministers and more than two dozen Greek business leaders on the trip.
After political meetings and a press conference on Tuesday, the two leaders are scheduled to attend a trade forum in Skopje.
Ahead of the visit, Zaev told AFP there would be new Greek investments worth more than 500 million euros in North Macedonia, which is much smaller and poorer than its EU member neighbour.
“The Republic of North Macedonia will have huge economic benefits from the deal that I believe will be seen in every area of the economy,” the prime minister added.
Since the initial name accord was inked in June 2018, congratulations have poured in from around the globe for the two young premiers, who took on risky political battles at home to push the deal through, enraging nationalists in both countries.
Even before the deal was finalised, the pair were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 2015 winner Wided Bouchamaoui of Tunisia.
“This visit is historic,” Tsipras told the state-run MIA news agency on Monday, hailing a new future for the “partners and allies.”
But he conceded that a “significant portion of the Greek people” are still “seriously concerned” about the name deal.
“It is our responsibility — mine and Zoran’s — to show that our nations can only benefit from the path that is now open,” he said, condemning “rising forces of nationalism.”
Disgruntlement is also palpable among some in Skopje who feel the name-change is an embarrassing concession to Greece and that the end-goal — entry into the EU — may never materialise.
North Macedonia is in the process of joining NATO and hoping the EU will open its accession talks in June.
Yet the timeline is unclear, with appetite for enlargement shrinking considerably among several members of the bloc, particularly France.
Meanwhile, in his own protest, the Balkan state’s President Gjorge Ivanov has been refusing to sign bills from parliament ever since North Macedonia became the country’s official name.
The two-term president will be replaced in elections later this month.
Britain is bracing for a crushing defeat at the United Nations on Wednesday when the General Assembly is expected to adopt a measure demanding that London cede the British-ruled Chagos islands,
Gulf Today compiled a series of places and travel hotspots where usually the tourists are left upset with the actual picture.
Greek island of Mykonos lies Delos, best known for its archaeological treasures, that British contemporary artist Antony Gormley is showing 29 of his sculptures.
Public debt in Greece and Italy, the two most indebted countries in the eurozone, grew last year while the bloc as a whole saw its liabilities decrease, the European Union statistics office said on Tuesday. The widening gaps in Greece and Italy, although expected,
Pakistan's army later said that "unprovoked cease-fire violations" by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier and wounded another three civilians and two troops across the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
Travellers to the UAE shall be receiving a three-shaded bookmark, marking the start of the year-long celebrations for the much-awaited Expo2020 Dubai scheduled for Oct.20, 2020 to April 10, 2021.
Qantas said tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness to exercise classes for passengers. A total of 49 people were on board, in order to minimize weight and give the necessary fuel range.
The developments made clear that one of President Donald Trump's rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to come to pass any time soon. "It's time to bring our soldiers back home," he said Wednesday. But they are not coming home.