North Macedonia deal: Greek PM Tsipras in ‘historic’ visit


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For the first time since Greece’s northern neighbour became independent in 1991, a Greek leader has visited the newly renamed North Macedonia.

Alexis Tsipras completed a deal in January to end their three-decade name row, and the two countries are now seeking to boost their relations.

The Greek prime minister was accompanied by 10 ministers and dozens of business leaders.

Counterpart Zoran Zaev greeted him with a selfie outside government buildings.

“The first prime minister of Greece to visit North Macedonia. Truly historic day,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev wrote on Twitter.

Greece had always objected to its neighbour’s use of “Macedonia”, because of the northern Greek province of the same name.

The two countries agreed that the Balkan state would become the Republic of North Macedonia, in return for Greece backing its long-stalled bids to join Nato and the European Union.

Ahead of his arrival, Mr Tsipras gave an interview with North Macedonian media in which he acknowledged that “a significant portion of the Greek people was and still is seriously concerned about this issue”.

An opinion poll late last month suggested 73% of Greeks “probably disagreed” with the Prespa agreement between the two states.

He said he and Mr Zaev had a responsibility to show how both countries could build mutual trust and benefit from the new deal.

Both leaders face difficult political opposition at home. Mr Tsipras faces elections later this year, with conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis backing Greeks in the Macedonia region who he said felt humiliated by the agreement.


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