By Furkan Naci Top and Dzihat Aliju
ATHENS/ SKOPJE (AA) - Intensified negotiations and bilateral meetings between Greece and Macedonia in the recent year have increased expectations for the solution of a quarter-century-old name dispute between the two countries.
Macedonia is unable to be a member of the EU and NATO because of the ongoing naming dispute with Greece, which constitutes a big problem for the country's future.
The new government of Macedonia under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has accelerated negotiations with Greece to solve the problem.
Greece does not want its neighbor to have the name 'Macedonia', because of the existence of a region in Greece with the same name.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that there is a "window of opportunity" for solution of the Macedonian issue. Zaev has also said there is possibility of a solution in the first half of 2018.
Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, who visited Athens recently, defined 2018 as a "historic year" for bilateral relations. He added that a solution will be reached in the first half of this year.
Media reports said during the negotiations the name "New Macedonian Republic" was discussed.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has said they will propose a name that will distinguish Macedonia from Greece's Macedonia region and this name will include a geographic characterization.
On the other hand, the Macedonian government plans to go to a referendum on the name issue while Greece will approve the name that will be agreed upon in the parliament.
However, it is generally thought that its solution in Greece may put Athens in a difficult position, due to the resistance of nationalist and rightist groups in the country.
It is also being said that the issue may raise a dispute between the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party and its smaller coalition partner right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.
Moreover, some lawmakers in SYRIZA and ANEL party have said that they will not approve any agreement that contains the name "Macedonia".
Macedonia was found in 1991 and has been recognized by the UN in 1993, but was accepted to the UN membership with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objection to the name Macedonia.
Many countries including Turkey recognize Macedonia with its present name.