ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece will bring Macedonia's NATO accession agreement to parliament for ratification "in the coming days," the government spokesman said Thursday, which will bring into effect the change of the country's name to North Macedonia.
Once parliament ratifies the NATO protocol, Greece's foreign ministry will inform Macedonia's foreign ministry of the result, a move which will automatically bring into effect the name change, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said. He didn't give a specific date.
The name change deal, dubbed the Prespa Agreement after the border lake where it was signed last year, ends a 27-year dispute between the two neighbors that had kept the former Yugoslav republic out of NATO and the European Union. Greece argued that the use of the name "Macedonia" implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name and usurped Greek history and culture, and had blocked its neighbor's efforts to join NATO over the issue.
Tzanakopoulos said the nearly three-decade dispute had given rise to "the monster of lies, nationalism and extreme historic revisionism" in Greece. Greek lawmakers' Jan. 25 ratification of the deal was "a historic milestone for peace, cooperation and stability in the Balkans," he said during a media briefing, adding that the agreement restores Greece's "leading role in the Balkans."
The agreement's ratification "symbolizes the victory of political courage and respect of the country's history, over opportunism, nationalism, the taking advantage of patriotism and the commerce of hate," he added.
The deal has been met with vociferous opposition by many in both countries, with critics accusing their respective governments of making too many concessions to the other side.
Once the deal comes into effect, Macedonia will have a five-year period to implement many of the practical changes it must make, including changing vehicle license plates and issuing new passports.