- Procedures and politics could delay implementation of the Greece-Macedonia deal
- Even so, Athens appears determined to mend fences with its northern neighbors
- These events could tilt the Western Balkans toward the West, if the EU doesn’t dither
It took 27 years of tough, UN-sponsored negotiations for the Republic of Macedonia to secure an agreement with Greece on a new name. The deal reached on June 17, 2018, opens the way for what could soon be The Republic of North Macedonia to join the European Union and NATO. Both processes had been blocked by Greece’s veto since 2006.
Even with the bilateral accord, though, a complex implementation process will take at least two years to complete. Procedurally and politically, it will be a difficult task. Opponents in both countries (including Macedonia’s president) are already rallying populist opposition to the deal. Regionally, warmer relations between Athens and Skopje – and potentially, between Greece and Tirana as well – will not be welcomed by Turkey, which has used these tensions to expand its influence in the Balkans. Russia will not be happy, either, since it opposes NATO membership for Macedonia.