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Macedonia to change name to end 27-year dispute with Greece

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Macedonia to change name to end 27-year dispute with Greece

The Republic of Macedonia has agreed to change its name to North Macedonia in a move that could end its 27-year dispute with Greece and allow the Balkan country to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.

Greece will end its veto over NATO and EU membership talks with Macedonia as part of an agreement reached between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in a phone call June 12, The Wall Street Journal reported. The accord still has to be ratified by Macedonian voters in a referendum and by the parliaments of both countries.

Greece had vetoed Macedonia's attempt to join NATO and the EU on concerns over possible territorial claims on its northern region, which is also known as Macedonia. It has objected to Macedonia's name ever since it became a country in 1991 after the collapse of Yugoslavia, saying the Balkan country has coveted Greek territory and heritage.

The two countries also agreed that the new name will be used both internationally and bilaterally. Currently, international organizations such as the EU and the United Nations use the country's provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, while more than 140 countries recognize it as the Republic of Macedonia.

Macedonia's parliament would require a two-thirds majority to change the constitution to reflect the new name, and the country might have to hold early elections as Zaev's government does not have enough votes, the Journal said. Meanwhile in Greece, Tsipras could need opposition support as his junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, oppose the move.

A decision to start the process for Macedonia's entrance into NATO could be taken as early as July, but EU membership talks could take longer due to France's and the Netherlands' reluctance to expanding the bloc, according to the Journal.