The move now awaits approval from Greece’s Parliament. A longstanding dispute between the two countries led to the move, because a region of Greece bordering the Macedonian republic is also called Macedonia. The change of name, if cleared by Athens, would pave the way for the small republic to enter NATO and the European Union.
It should be noted that Macedonia broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and declared independence. It measures a little over 25,000 sq km, and has a population just over 2 million. Neighbouring Greece has objected to its name all through, suggesting it implied the Macedonian republic’s territorial aspirations over the northern region of Greece. For the Greeks, Macedonia is significant as the cradle of Alexander the Great’s empire. Insisting that the name apply only to the Greek region, the Greeks have been blocking the Macedonian republic’s entry to NATO and EU membership.
In June last year, the two countries reached an agreement. Macedonia said it would change its name, and Greece said it would drop its objection to the neighboring country’s entry into the EU and NATO if the changes are formally adopted. The name appears to have been chosen back then, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras having said that the neighbouring country would be Severna Makedonija or Republic of North Macedonia.