Fresh road signs erected as North Macedonia adopts new name | World News
New roads signs are being erected in the freshly-named Republic of North Macedonia.
The Balkan country has changed its title, from simply the “Republic of Macedonia”, after a name deal was confirmed on Wednesday as part of an historic agreement with Greece.
It opens the way for North Macedonia to join NATO and, eventually, the European Union (EU).
Among the first practical steps the country must now take is to inform the United Nations (UN) and all the countries that had previously recognised it as Macedonia that its name has changed.
Workers have been seen replacing road signs on the border with Greece to reflect the name change, which ends a nearly three decade-long dispute over the use of the term “Macedonia”.
Athens argued the name implied claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and usurped its ancient heritage.
North Macedonia must put its new name on road signs at all border crossings, and also at the airports of Skopje and Ohrid, within three days under the provisions of the agreement.
Vehicle registration plates will also change within four months, while new passports will start being issued at the end of the year.
The central bank in capital Skopje will begin issuing new banknotes by the start of 2020.
North Macedonia’s previous official name, “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, will pass into history.
And with it will go the last vestiges of the now-defunct six-republic “Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia”.
Three other ex-Yugoslav republics – Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro – have already joined NATO, as have other countries in the Balkans including Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.
Although more than 130 countries had recognised the country as merely Macedonia, the UN and other international bodies used the moniker “Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia”, which was agreed in an interim accord in 1995.
Hundreds of rounds of UN-brokered negotiations floundered until 2018, when the country’s prime minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed to a compromise.
North Macedonia signed an accession protocol with NATO last week, despite Russian criticism that further expansion by the alliance in the Balkans would undermine regional stability.
The protocol must now be ratified by all NATO governments, a process that typically takes about a year.
As the new name became a reality, reactions were mixed among the public in Skopje.
Suzana Alcinova Monevska, a 55-year-old meteorologist, said: “I’m glad that we are moving forward.
“After 30 years of difficulties and isolation, my country has a future. I’m already feeling that with the new name, obstacles are removed.
“My company has already got many invitations in recent days to participate in EU-sponsored projects.”
But others were angered by the name change.
Marinna Stevcevska, also 55, said she was “deeply disappointed and emotionally hurt” by the change.
“I will not change my passport as long as I can and I’m hoping that something will change to have the old name back,” she said.
“I’ve promised to myself that if Macedonia changes its name, I’ll be leaving the country. I’m still thinking where to move.”