Greece and what is now North Macedonia were embroiled in a decades-long name dispute. Greece had insisted that the name Macedonia belonged to its northern region, onetime stronghold of Alexander the Great. It was only earlier this year that the Republic of Macedonia accepted the name Republic of North Macedonia, and that Greece in turn said it would stop blocking North Macedonia’s entry into NATO and the European Union.
The dispute started back in World War II, when part of what was then Yugoslavia was deemed the “People’s Republic of Macedonia.” The U.S. State Department warned in 1944 that the name could one day cause problems with Greece. And indeed, when in 1991 it declared independence, dropping the “people’s” and becoming, it said, the “Republic of Macedonia,” Greece complained (and not just informally — at the United Nations).
Tsipras and Zaev both overcame domestic political pressure and agreed on the new name in 2018, but both sides didn’t ratify the agreement until January. The country formerly known (but not by Greece) as Macedonia became North Macedonia in February.
Zaev, who presumably will always have the selfie to remember this moment by, and North Macedonia hope the country can now join NATO, provided all other members also agree, and eventually the European Union.