Former Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras and his North Macedonia counterpart, Zoran Zaev, were honored in Germany on Saturday for creating the 2018 Prespa Agreement.
In a ceremony, they received the the International Peace of Westphalia Prize which is awarded every two years. The award commemorated the peace agreement that was signed in Münster and Osnabrück at the end of the devastating Thirty Years’ War, which broke out exactly 400 years ago.
According to the announcement, the two leaders ended through their agreement the decades-long of conflict over the name of North- Macedonia and thereby contributed to the stability in the whole Balkan region.
“Without Tsipras and Zaev, the name dispute would not have ended, and the feud would continue to destabilize the entire Balkan region,” said Chairman Dr. Reinhard Zinkann.
Speaking at the ceremony, Tsipras said that the Prespa Agreement is a model for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“The Prespa Agreement can make a significant contribution to a new European and global vision, as a model for the peaceful settlement of disputes by protecting national interests and building trust and cooperation even in the most difficult times,” he stated.
Referring to the preparation of the Agreement, he noted: “We wanted an Agreement under the UN that would withstand and would not collapse in the face of the first difficulty. An Agreement that would not only resolve our differences, but would tie us to a new strategic partnership to face challenges together and seize opportunities together.”
Prespa settles name dispute between Greece-North Macedonia
The Prespa agreement, apart from resolving the terminological differences, in particular over the name of North Macedonia, also covers areas of cooperation between the two countries in order to establish a strategic partnership between them.
Signed beside the mutually-shared Lake Prespa, from which it took its name, and ratified by the Parliaments of both countries, the agreement went into force on February 12, 2019 when the two countries notified the UN of the deal’s completion, following the ratification of the NATO accession protocol for North Macedonia on February 8.
It replaces the Interim Accord of 1995 and sees the Republic of Macedonia’s constitutional name changed to the Republic of North Macedonia erga omnes.
The international community reacted positively to the Prespa Agreement, with the media dubbing it “historic.” The citizens of both the nations affected by the pact, however, reacted more negatively to the agreement. In North Macedonia, the President of the Republic, Gjorge Ivanov, declared that he wouldn’t sign the agreement, calling it “disastrous.”
In Greece the Prespa agreement was totally opposed by the far-right and the Communist Party. Additionally, the conservative New Democracy party filed a motion of no-confidence against Tsipras in Parliament because of the name deal, which was rejected two days later with a simple parliamentary majority, with 153 against it, 127 for.
In January 2019, huge rallies took place in Athens and other Greek cities against the agreement.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the New Democracy party at the time, before he became prime minister, had argued in this connection that the Greek Foreign Minister (and hence the government of SYRIZA) had no authority to sign the agreement, based on international legal arguments that were responded to by legal scholars.