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Greek Premier Makes Historic Visit to Skopje

Nationalists continue to grumble as leaders move to end almost 30 years of bad blood. 3 April 2019

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sealed the end of a decades-long dispute yesterday, making the first official visit by a Greek leader to newly-named North Macedonia since the days of Yugoslavia.

 

Along with 10 ministers and more than 100 business leaders, Tsipras arrived in what was previously the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia less than two months after it agreed to add “North” to its name, mollifying the fears in Athens of possible territorial claims over the northern Greek region of Macedonia, the BBC writes.

 

“We are here to build bridges and break down walls,” the Guardian quotes Tsipras saying at a joint press conference with his North Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev. “This is a historic moment not only for our countries, but for the Balkans and Europe.”

 

 

Tsipras added that Greece would immediately establish an embassy in Skopje.

 

Aside from economic deals, a second border crossing, and the first co-operation council between the two nations, a joint committee has also been created to evaluate possible biases in school textbooks, BBC writes.

 

Moreover, Greece will assume the policing and protection of the North Macedonian airspace, Al Jazeera reports.

 

Last year’s Prespa Agreement committing Greece to end its vetoes of Skopje’s NATO and European Union bids in return for the change of name was passed over strong opposition in both countries.

 

While the accord won widespread praise from abroad, nationalists in both countries were enraged, creating a rather difficult situation as both leaders face elections this year, the Guardian writes.

 

NATO invited Skopje to begin accession talks in July 2018.

 

“It was very important last year that immediately after the signing of the Prespa Agreement we could come back home with a deliverable and that was the NATO invitation,” North Macedonian Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska told journalist Teri Schultz in an article for the Atlantic Council.

 

 

  • An opinion poll cited by the BBC found that 73 percent of Greeks "probably disagreed" with the Prespa Agreement.

 

  • North Macedonia will hold  the first round of its presidential election on 21 April. Three candidates are competing to replace the incumbent, Gjorge Ivanov, who opposed the reconciliation accord: Stevo Pendarovski, the nominee of the ruling Social Democrats; Gordana Silyanovska Davkova for the opposition VMRO-DPMNE; and Blerim Reka, nominated by two ethnic Albanian parties, Novinite reports.
Compiled by Rose Joy Smith
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