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North Macedonia and Greece: what does a compromise contain? | Press | DW

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“Compromise is the art of dividing a pie in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest slice,” former German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard once said. Is it suitable for North Macedonia and Greece?

If the perfect compromise is defined as a situation in which no one wins or loses, then the conclusion of the decade-long name dispute between North Macedonia and Greece would not fall into this category. Not because there are no winners or losers. On the contrary. The so-called Prespa Agreement, named after the lakes shared by Albania, Greece and North Macedonia, ended one of the world’s longest and strangest disputes: a conflict between two neighboring countries on history, identity and territory. In many other regions of the world, these questions would have been discussed and possibly settled between historians, sociologists or anthropologists. But in the Balkans, all problems start and end with politics. Thus, the solution to the dispute has long seemed improbable and, even today, after its successful outcome, it still appears as an exception to the famous quote by Winston Churchill which many interpret as a rule according to which the Balkans are a region which produces more history than her. can consume.

Map Land and Provinz Mazedonien FR

Of course, the Balkanites will continue their quest for a better, more glorious past – the nationalists in North Macedonia and Greece who still oppose the name deal are the perfect example – but the Prespa offers something unique for both countries and the region: a chance to build a better and more glorious future.

Learn more: North Macedonia’s name change takes effect

Simply put, this compromise has produced both winners and losers. The governments in Skopje and Athens led by Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras clearly fall into the first category. They risked their political futures and faced strong opposition and protests, often violent, led by nationalists in their societies. The Ewald von Kleist Prize, which Tsipras and Zaev received this year at the Munich Security Conference, is a just reward for their policy of rapprochement.

The view of Skopje and beyond

For North Macedonia, the agreement opens the door to full NATO membership and a chance to finally open accession negotiations with the European Union. NATO and the EU have long been seen by Macedonians themselves as the guarantors of a stable and prosperous future for this small landlocked Balkan country. Now the new generation will finally have the opportunity to stop digging in the historical trenches and start planning for the future.

The historic reconciliation also gives Greece a chance to finally close a chapter that has given rise to numerous political crises over the past 28 years, since the (former) Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia. Instead of being a problematic neighbor, Greece now has an ally on its northern border, no small feat considering its delicate relations with other neighboring countries, particularly Turkey. The agreement serves the Greek government’s strategy to become “a leading force in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean”, as Prime Minister Tsipras said in December last year.

Learn more: Anti-Macedonian protests in Greece fuel nationalist sentiment

In the broader context of the Balkans and Southeast Europe, the Prespa Agreement and North Macedonia’s entry into NATO improve regional stability at a time when the ghosts of the past threaten to fade away. unleash – and especially in light of the expected solution to the Kosovo question – with or without the planned exchange of territories with Serbia.

A victory for the EU

Georgievski Boris Kommentarbild app

Boris Georgievski, head of DW’s Macedonian service

Last but not least, the agreement gives the EU a working base in the Western Balkans region. It constitutes an example that Brussels can use to overcome the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia and resolve the Bosnian puzzle.

The nationalists on both sides of the border are clearly the losers of this compromise. In North Macedonia as in Greece, they fought tooth and nail to keep the conflict going. For decades, conflict has been both their modus vivendi and their modus operandi. Without it, they are left empty-handed in pursuit of domestic and foreign enemies and populist subjects.

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