• Adrian Waters

The Truth about the Prespa Agreement


Prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev (Right) and Alexis Tsipras (Left) Source: http://meta.mk/en/telephone-conversation-between-tsipras-and-zaev-the-prespa-agreement-is-a-priority/

Disclaimer: The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of the Institute for a Greater Europe.

Introduction


The Prespa Agreement is the deal signed between the Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers in the presence of their respective prime ministers, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, on the 17th June 2018 as a way of resolving the long-standing name dispute between their countries. The Agreement itself is named after a lake shared between Macedonia, Greece and Albania, as it was signed in the village of Psarades in the Greek-controlled area nearby. Apart from supposedly easing tensions between Macedonia and Greece, the accord stipulates that the former would change its constitutional name to the Republic of North Macedonia in exchange for accession to both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the permission of the latter. However, the practical implementation of this Agreement depends on the ratification by both Greek and Macedonian parliaments.[1] Three days later, on June 20th 2018, the deal was approved in the Macedonian assembly, but without the opposition parliamentarians who boycotted the session. The Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov stated that he would not support the deal, even after a threat of impeachment. The following days were marked by protests against the agreement involving hundreds of Macedonians in the capital city, Skopje.[2] Similarly, the deal faced fierce opposition in Greece from far-right, centrist and left-wing parties culminating in ultra-nationalist rallies.[3] Only the Western powers have unanimously hailed the treaty as a historic and positive step towards achieving peace and stability in the Balkans, with feelings of satisfaction high among EU and NATO member states who see it as a means of securing the pro-Western orientation of the government in Skopje and minimising Russian influence in Macedonia.[4] At this point, the reader might be asking himself/herself: what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Prespa Agreement? In order to provide a clear answer, a concise historical outline would be appropriate, followed by an explanation of the terms of the treaty.


Macedonia before 1991


The country known as the Republic of Macedonia came into existence in 1991, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in which it was a federal unit called the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. In ancient times, its heyday was during Alexander the Great’s empire in 336-323 BC, but the territory later fell under the control of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Bulgarians, the Serbs and then by 1395 the Ottoman Turks, who enslaved the Macedonian people until the 1912-13 Balkan Wars.[5] During these confl