The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia faced political storms at home Thursday, two days after reaching a historic deal to settle a decades-old dispute over Macedonia’s name. Greece’s Alexis Tsipras faces a vote of no-confidence in his government by Saturday afternoon, while Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev is contending with the refusal of the country’s president to sign off on the deal if it’s approved by parliament. Zaev and Tsipras have agreed that the former Yugoslav republic should be renamed North Macedonia, ending a disagreement that had prevented it from joining international institutions such as NATO and had poisoned bilateral relations since the early 1990s.
But the dispute has roused strong nationalist sentiment in both countries. Critics on both sides of the border were furious, accusing their respective prime ministers of conceding too much, and protests are planned for both countries in coming days.
Greece has long demanded that its northern neighbor change its name, saying the term “Macedonia” implies territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, and usurps ancient Greek heritage and history.