After many months of persistent negotiations, a few moments ago we managed to reach an agreement with the Prime Minister of FYROM to resolve our longstanding dispute over the name of our neighboring country.
For more than seventy years, since the establishment of the neighboring Federal state of Yugoslavia, and particularly after its independence in 1992, our neighboring country has been called the “Republic of Macedonia”, with all that this implies for the appropriation of the heavy heritage of the civilization of Greek Macedonia.
I would like to inform you that in order to establish relations of constructive cooperation and sincere friendship among our peoples and in order for Greece not only to accept but also to take the lead in the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of our neighbors, they have agreed to change their constitutional name for all uses.
They agreed to rename their country to “Republic of Severna Makedonija”, which in our language means “Δημοκρατία της Βόρειας Μακεδονίας”.
The change of the name will be realized both in terms of their international and bilateral relations as well as inside the country.
In short, this name will be used erga omnes– for all uses, both abroad and internally, which means that our neighbors undertook the responsibility to reform their Constitution accordingly.
This way, according to the agreement, the 140 countries that today recognize our neighbors as Macedonia will now recognize it as “Republic of North Macedonia”.
This constitutes a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbors and finally puts an end to the irredentism that their current constitutional name contains.
At the same time – and perhaps this has the greatest historical weight and value for Greece – in the Agreement, it is consolidated for the first time that our Northern neighbors do not have and cannot claim in the future any relationship with the ancient Greek civilization of Macedonia.
The term “Macedonian” tied to the Greek historical heritage, which derives its origins from ancient Greek civilization, is explicitly and categorically separated from the term “Macedonian” the way it is used by the or neighbouring country and on the basis of which the citizens of our neighboring country identify themselves.
In the same context, the Agreement recognizes the relevant UN 1977 decisions, which registered the language of our neighbors as Macedonian language, but with the additional and clear wording that the language belongs to the family of South Slavic languages. As stipulated in the Agreement, this expressly separates it from the Greek-Macedonian linguistic heritage and ancient Greek civilization.
The Agreement also provides that the citizenship to be written in the travel documents of our neighbors will not be just “Macedonian” as it is today, but: “Macedonian/Citizen of North Macedonia”.
Greece will recognize the citizenship of the neighboring citizens as “Citizens of North Macedonia”.
But beyond that, it is of paramount importance that we have agreed that our neighbors, in the forthcoming Constitutional Revision, will undertake the responsibility to remove from their Constitution any reference that could be interpreted as irredentist.
The references to a Macedonian minority, as well as the need to protect it, are eliminated.
The article on border protection is being replaced, by deleting the problematic references that are included in its current form.
Finally, any historical and irredentist references are being removed from the preamble of their Constitution.
Together with Mr. Zaev, we have agreed, also, on a clear timeline for the signature, ratification and entry into force of the Agreement.
The Agreement, after it is signed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, has to be ratified by the Parliament of our neighboring country.
Greece will then support a decision to start the accession negotiations of North Macedonia with the European Union, in the upcoming European Council.
At the same time, it will support sending an invitation to this country to join NATO, in the framework of the upcoming Summit of this organization.
Both invitations will include a clear conditionality: the successful finalization of the Constitutional Reform in the neighboring country, which ensures the use of the new name for all purposes.
To put it simply, if the constitutional reform is not finalized successfully, the invitation to join NATO is cancelled and the accession negotiations with the EU will not be launched.
Greece, finally will ratify the Agreement at the Greek Parliament, put it in force, as well as the Protocol of Accession of our neighbours to NATO after the successful conclusion of the constitutional reform process in the neighbouring country. This way, Greece fully safeguards its interests and does not give up its relative advantages in the negotiation process.
I am deeply convinced that this Agreement constitutes an important diplomatic victory and a big historic opportunity. The Greek Government has fully safeguarded all its red lines, all the red lines of our national position, as this position has been established during the last 20 years.
More importantly, we find ourselves in front of a historic opportunity which concerns not only our nation, but more broadly our region. This is a historic moment for the Balkans and its people. It puts a definite end to a dispute which has undermined the development of a common perspective, as well as stability in the wider region.
It opens a window to the future. A window of solidarity, friendship and cooperation, prosperity and common growth for our peoples.
This Agreement consolidates the position of our country as a leading power in the Balkans and as a real pillar of stability in a deeply wounded region. At a time when countries around us are becoming more introvert, hit by the virus of nationalism, Greece is becoming again a protagonist in the Balkans, as a country that paves the way towards peaceful resolution of disputes and constructive coexistence.
I am very proud of that.
Beyond any cheap political games and internal calculations, all Greeks can be proud today.
Not only because this agreement consolidates our historical and cultural legacy. Not only for our history. But also for the present and the future.
[Greeks can be proud of] a strong Greece, a lighthouse of civilization, history, but also values. A country that constitutes a pillar of stability in the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and in Europe.
This is the vision we have for Greece and today, we are making a historic step in this direction.