As most readers will know, the contentious Greek ratification procedure for the Prespes Agreement ended with its passage in a vote January 25, with a margin of just three votes (153/300). That deal, signed in June 2018, is designed to resolve the Name Dispute once and for all between Greece and its northern neighbour, now renamed as North Macedonia. Just a few technical steps are required under the terms of the Prespes Agreement to enter into force, but for all intents and purposes, the work is complete.
New Europe will now refer to North Macedonia, the country’s newly-approved constitutional name. We have been careful to refer to the country as Macedonia/FYROM up to this point and will use that term only in a historical context or if the discussion requires this for clarity. We will use the adjective “North Macedonian” as needed, slightly shorter than the term “of North Macedonia” which the Prespes deal spells out.
And much like New Yorkers and New Zealanders are described in a two-word moniker, New Europe will describe the country’s citizens as North Macedonians, hoping to avoid the term “Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia” as spelt out in the Prespes Agreement. We hope our journalistic colleagues will refrain from shortening the adjective to a one-word term, as this shortcut serves to undercut most of what the Prespes Agreement is said to have attained, the use of one name for all purposes. This will take time.
The entry of North Macedonia into NATO is long overdue, but it should not be seen as the ultimate guarantee of stability in the Western Balkans, simply a new hard barrier aimed at Moscow. As for NATO’s track record, all one has to do is to look at how little success NATO has had through the years in calming Greek-Turkish competition over the Aegean.
North Macedonia’s entry into the EU will take years to negotiate and may well occur at a time when the EU itself is being deconstructed or reconstructed. Get out your crystal balls.
The deal’s supporters should refrain from praising the Prespes Agreement too loudly and simply get down to the business of solidly anchoring North Macedonia into Euro-Atlantic intuitions. It is not the best of the best by any means. There are valid concerns that democratic practices were circumvented in the battle to get the Prespes Agreement ratified in both Greece and North Macedonia. The current Greek leadership steadfastly refused to consider asking its people about the deal in a referendum or requiring a 2/3 majority to ratify it in Parliament, while in North Macedonia the failed September 30 referendum was ignored, questionable practices were used to secure key opposition party votes when needed, as well as the position of the country’s popularly-elected President somehow bypassed.
To numerous observers, it appeared at times both countries’ leaders spent more time fighting public opinion in their own countries than in negotiating a balanced mutually-beneficial deal with the UN’s help.
New Europe will be watching for key world powers to recognize North Macedonia by its new constitutional name, as many have long promised. This is important and should not be delayed. Likewise, we are on the alert for Russia’s threat to use its UN Security Council veto whenever an attempt is made to remove the old Name Dispute from the UN agenda. The last chapter may not have been completed yet.