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North Macedonia: President fuels name dispute with Greece

North Macedonia: President fuels name dispute with Greece

The new President of North Macedonia takes her oath of office and replaces the official country name with an old name in the oath formula. The Greek ambassador then leaves the room in protest. An old argument threatens to flare up again.

A few days after her election victory, the new president of North Macedonia reignited the dispute over the country’s name. When she was sworn in as the first woman to hold the highest state office on Sunday, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova refused to use the name North Macedonia for her country, which has been in effect since an agreement reached with Greece in 2018. This led to an angry reaction from Athens.

“I declare that I will carry out the office of President of Macedonia conscientiously and responsibly, respect the constitution and laws and protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Macedonia,” said the politician from the nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE. Your party refuses to recognize the new name “North Macedonia”.

North Macedonia’s new name regulated by treaty

With the name change from Macedonia to North Macedonia regulated in the so-called Prespa Treaty, a decades-long dispute with Greece was settled in 2018. Athens had objected to the neighboring country having the same name as one of its historic provinces and had therefore blocked both NATO and the EU from joining. After the name change, North Macedonia was admitted to NATO in 2020, but accession to the EU is still pending.

The government in Athens now reacted angrily to Siljanovska-Davkova’s choice of words when taking the oath of office. “Greece categorically emphasizes that further progress in its bilateral relations with North Macedonia and its European path depends on the full implementation of the Prespa agreement and, above all, on the use of the neighboring country’s constitutional name,” the Foreign Ministry said.

According to media reports, the Greek ambassador in Skopje left the swearing-in ceremony, to which foreign representatives were also invited, in protest. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also emphasized that North Macedonia must “follow the path of reforms and full respect of existing treaties, including the Prespa agreement”. At the same time, she congratulated the new head of state on the online service X: “Congratulations, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, on being appointed the first female president of North Macedonia.”

First woman to head the country

The 71-year-old Siljanovska-Davkova was elected for a five-year term in the second round of the presidential election on May 8th. With a share of the vote of 65 percent, she clearly prevailed against incumbent Stevo Pendarovski. She is the first woman to lead the country since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

North Macedonia’s accession to the EU could have been made more difficult by the results of the parliamentary elections, which also took place on May 8th. In the election, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE also secured a majority in parliament and replaced the ruling social democrats SDSM. With the victory of the VMRO-DPMNE, North Macedonia’s relations with Greece and also with Bulgaria, whose approval is crucial for joining the EU, could deteriorate significantly.

Source: Stern

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