The Greek parliament will ratify the decision to reopen the border crossing in the region of the Prespes Lakes between Greece and North Macedonia next week.
The landmark decision was announced by Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Sia Anagnostopoulou in a Wednesday interview with the AMNA news agency.
The decision is part of the Prespa Agreement, which was ratified by both countries earlier this year.
Panagiotis Paschalidis, the mayor of the municipality of Prespes, who spoke with AMNA on Thursday expressed his hopes for strengthening tourism following the reopening of the border crossing.
Paschalidis stressed that the reopening of the pass has been requested continually by the municipality’s residents for fifty-two years.
The issue was raised with Greece’s prime minister a year and a half ago, and the request became an incentive for negotiations which eventually led to the ground-breaking Prespa Agreement, signed in June of 2018.
“This pass was in operation from 1959 to 1967. It was a unique pass that allowed inhabitants from a distance of about 10 kilometers (six miles) to cross the border (into Greece), where we provided agricultural, veterinary and medical services. It was unilaterally closed by Greece, three weeks after the military junta took over,” Paschalidis explained.
The mayor stated that the shutdown of the border crossing had “isolated the region.” He expressed optimism over the prospect of strengthening bilateral cooperation and relations between the peoples of the region.
The mayor noted that approximately 200,000 people currently visit the other side of the border annually, and those on the Greek side now hope that an increase in tourism to their region will become a reality.
The municipality of Prespes is part of the Florina regional unit, which belongs to the prefecture of West Macedonia. Its population in 2011 was slightly over 1,500 inhabitants.
With information from A.M.N.A.