The day after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart from Skopje, Zoran Zaev, held talks in Sofia, with Zaev saying that a “single option” was now being discussed to resolve the dispute over the use of the name Macedonia, reports emerged that the proposal was for the former Yugoslav republic to be named “Ilinden Macedonian Republic”.
According to various media in Skopje, the name “Republika Ilindenska Makedonija” would be valid for all types of use, both within and outside the country, the Independent Balkan News Agency (IBNA) reported on May 18.
IBNA said that the term “Ilindenska” derives from the word “Ilinden”, which in Greek means the Day of Prophet Elijah. In August 1903, there was uprising in Krusevo against the Ottoman Empire at that time, when Ilinden is celebrated, according to the Julian calendar.
The proposal reportedly was put by Zaev to Tsipras on the morning of May 17, while they were both in the Bulgarian capital city for the EU-Western Balkans Sofia Summit hosted by the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU.
The government in Skopje has neither confirmed nor denied that this was the name proposal now being discussed.
Zaev is expected to call a meeting of political leaders, including the president of the country, Gjorge Ivanov, to brief them on the options that were discussed with Tsipras in Sofia.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov told the media in Sofia on May 18 that he had heard that the name “Ilinden Macedonian Republic” was the option being discussed. It was an internal matter for Greece and the Republic of Macedonia to resolve, he said.
Karakachanov, whose country has signed a good-neighbourliness agreement with Macedonia, said: “We are trying to support this process (of resolving the name dispute) to solve problems in the Balkans”.
IBNA reported that on May 17, Tsipras said that there was significant progress in the negotiations over the name issue. However, he said, there was still a long way to go.
Tsipras said that he and Zaev had held “very substantial negotiations”.
“After all, a significant advance had been achieved last weekend in Sounio at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries in the presence of the UN envoy Mathew Nimetz,” Tsipras said.
“Still, there are quite a few issues, as it is a complex and multilevel negotiation that needs clarifications. We stayed up till late last night,” he said.
“I think we have travelled a great deal of distance but have to cover more miles. We are examining all details very carefully. But we are not yet in a position to talk about an agreement. There will be future steps so that we can manage to hold one more meeting at the beginning of next month,” Tsipras said.
Zaev has expressed optimism that the name dispute could be resolved by the time of the European Council meeting in late June 2018.