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Prespa Agreement and North Macedonia's NATO Accession

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2019

Her Majesty’s Government have received by note verbale a formal notice from the Government in Skopje that the Republic of Macedonia has changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. This follows the entering into force of the Prespa agreement. The UK body that deals with geographical names, the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN), recommended that we endorse the change. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs agreed.

The name issue

The name issue had been a matter of dispute between Macedonia and Greece since 1991, when Greece refused to recognise the new state as the “Republic of Macedonia” owing to sensitivities over use of the term Macedonia. The Republic of Macedonia became the 181st member of the United Nations, but under the provisional term, the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Until the Prespa agreement came into force, this was the designation used by the country in all international fora. In bilateral communications, the United Kingdom referred to the country by its constitutional name, the ‘Republic of Macedonia’.

The Prespa agreement

Under the auspices of the United Nations, negotiating teams from both countries reached a settlement. The Foreign Ministers of Greece and Macedonia signed the Prespa agreement on 17 June 2018. The entering into force of the Prespa agreement earlier this month resolves the dispute. Under Article 1 (3) of the agreement, the Republic of Macedonia is henceforth the Republic of North Macedonia.

NATO Accession

NATO Allies, including the United Kingdom, signed North Macedonia’s Accession protocol on 6 February. Greece’s Parliament ratified North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol on 8 February. The Greek Government then confirmed to the Macedonian Government that all necessary steps to ratify the Prespa agreement were complete. Her Majesty’s Government are taking forward the process for UK ratification of North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol. This will involve laying the Accession Protocol before Parliament for 21 sitting days for scrutiny (as stipulated in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010). Once this process is complete, and provided Parliament has no objections, Her Majesty’s Government will deposit their instrument of ratification.