ATHENS: Two weeks after Macedonian lawmakers agreed to adopt the new name “Republic of North Macedonia,” the Greek parliament was to vote Friday on the same issue to end a row that has long poisoned relations between the neighbours.
Greek parliamentary authorities said the vote had been put back from Thursday, given the large number of lawmakers wanting to speak on the issue.
Should Athens agree to the new name, that should clear the path for Skopje to join the EU and Nato.
Here is some background about the dispute:
— Rejected from the start —
Greece rejects the name Macedonia, adopted by the country at its independence from the former Yugoslavia 27 years ago, as it is also that of a large Greek region that evokes national pride as the cradle of Alexander the Great’s ancient empire.
Macedonia’s international recognition is immediately stalled by Greece because of its name.
Besides claiming the title as part of its heritage and identity, Greece fears Skopje could harbour territorial ambitions over its own region of Macedonia just across the border.
— A country called FYROM —
It is only with the adoption of a provisional name — the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) — that the country is finally admitted into the United Nations in 1993.
Most other nations, including Russia and the United States, later recognise its constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.
— Greece clamps down —
In 1994, Greece imposes an economic embargo on Macedonia and prevents it from using the Greek port at Thessaloniki, Skopje’s main trading post.
Greece also demands that Macedonia drop from its flag the golden sun of Vergina, claiming it as an ancient Greek symbol, as well as certain articles from its constitution.
— A thaw —
In 1995, the neighbours sign an accord in New York opening the way for a normalisation of trade and political ties but leaving the name dispute hanging.
They then open liaison offices in their respective capitals and a new Macedonian flag — with a different sun symbol — is raised for the first time at the United Nations.
In 2001, Greece expresses support for Skopje as it faces an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels.
— Greek vetoes —
After Macedonia becomes a candidate for EU membership in 2005, Greece blocks the start of negotiations, still rejecting its title.
In 2008 Macedonia is invited for Nato membership under its provisional name, but again faces a Greek veto.
Relations plummet with the erection of a huge statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje in 2011. Athens views it as an attempt to appropriate one of its greatest heroes.
— Migrant tensions —
Athens in 2016 accuses Skopje of excessive use of force against hundreds of migrants, many fleeing the war in Syria.
— Breakthrough —
Soon after his election in May 2017, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev promises a new push to settle the name dispute as he relaunches the drive for EU and Nato membership.
Negotiations restart in January 2018 under UN auspices, despite strong opposition from nationalists in both countries.
— ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ —
In June, the two sides settle on “Republic of North Macedonia”.
A September referendum among Macedonians shows 90 per cent agreement with the name change — but two-thirds of registered voters shun the ballot.
In October, Macedonia’s parliament, which must approve constitutional changes, votes by a razor-thin majority to begin the process of renaming the country.
The parliament in December votes for a second reading of the four amendments required to the constitution, with the final vote passed two weeks ago. The motion receives the required two-thirds majority by just one vote.