The signing – in the idyllic, still heavy with historical memories, setting of the Prespes lakes where Greece meets with Albania and (once the signature ceremony was over) North Macedonia – of a complicated agreement between Greece/The Hellenic Republic and The Republic of North Macedonia/Severna Makedonija should mean that the 25-plus year-long dispute between the two countries of the Balkan peninsula over the name issue of the latter comes to an end.
Not so easy! The signing of the 20 pages - long agreement, with highly technical/legal provisions and circumvoluted language is just the first step in a long process. That may get stalled at every turn of the roadmap agreed under the benevolent, at times exasperated eye of global actors. Not only ratification of the agreement by both Parliaments in Athens and Skopje has to take place, but the latter has to implement a wide overhaul of its Constitution so as to put aside nationalistic claims based on historical shadows. The name issue, which was considered of main interest, is now overshadowed by the nationality to be mentioned in passports and the suchlike, as well as by the name afforded to the local language.
All of which has been the optimal ground for suspicion, resentment and divisiveness to flourish in public opinion. The public opinion on both sides of the border, that is. The party system is both Greece and North Macedonia-to-be is deeply divided; rallies increase in anger; the local media tentatively revert to nationalistic patterns. True enough, the support afforded to the Greek and North Macedonian leadership by the EU heads, the US, the UN etc. as well as the global media crowd acclaim may serve to bolster their will.
But at the end, where and how public opinion will settle will be the determining factor.