‘North Macedonia’ Embraces New, Undisputed Name on Road to NATO

(Bloomberg) -- A former Yugoslav republic that’s been blocked from joining NATO and the European Union because of a dispute over its name has started using a new moniker that’s the result of a deal to open the doors to western integration.

Adding a single cardinal direction to its title, the renamed "Republic of North Macedonia" said it will change the signs at border checkpoints and airports in the next three days. The country will start issuing new license plates in the coming months and eventually print new banknotes next year, the government in Skopje said in a statement.

It announced the change late Tuesday after Greece, which had blocked its neighbor’s path to joining the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said its parliament had ratified North Macedonia’s accession protocol into the alliance, a final condition for the change to take place. Greece had objected to the Balkan state’s use of the name "Macedonia," saying that the designation should only apply to its northern province, the ancient stronghold of Alexander the Great.

“We can’t change our past, but we can and we will shape our future of friendship, partnership and cooperation,” North Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said in a tweet. “May today be the beginning of a long friendship between Greece and North Macedonia.”

The name change is a victory for Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who came to power 18 months ago, promising to strike a deal with Greece. NATO approved his country’s membership last week, and Zaev now hopes he’ll start accession talks with the EU as early as June.

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