Europe May Have a New Country (Sort Of)

Jun 13, 2018

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The country we used to know as Macedonia — or, officially, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — is changing. Its boundaries will remain the same, but it may now change its name to Northern Macedonia.

In 1991, the country then known as Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia. Greece immediately expressed its distaste for the name, saying that suggested “territorial pretensions” to the northern Greek province of the same name. It even tried to block United Nations membership for the new nation if it would not change its name, which in 1993 it did, when it joined the UN as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” often shortened with the unwieldy acronym of FYROM. In its constitution, however, the nation called itself Republic of Macedonia, and has been recognized as such by most other nations of the world, including the US. So Greece continued to block Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union and NATO — but a solution has come this week, with a negotiated name change.

The two countries have finally agreed to a long-term solution, settling on a renaming to Northern Macedonia. The name adjustment hasn’t been fully implemented yet, so you may still see “Republic of Macedonia” or the FYROM acronym floating around. In fact, the agreement reached by Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev must be approved by both parliaments before the name change is official. The Macedonian president has said he wants to veto it, and in both countries, there is opposition to the name change.

Image by Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG via Getty Images
Image by Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG via Getty Images

 

(Northern) Macedonia is actually a beautiful travel destination, although not widely known by Americans. Its terrain encompasses everything from hike-able mountains to canyons surrounded by lush landscape. Plus, the country has beautiful historical architecture worth visiting. And while it is landlocked, it has beautiful lakes. Getting into one of its two commercial airports, Skopje (SKP) or Ohrid (OHD), requires one connection from the US. You can fly into the capital Skopje through major European cities including Vienna, Zurich and Milan.

This story has been amended to show that the agreement to rename the country has not become official yet.

Featured image of the Matka Canyon by Pierre Crom/Getty Images.

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