Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, the new President of North Macedonia, poses for cameras at the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Skopje, on Sunday—AFP
Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, the new President of North Macedonia, poses for cameras at the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Skopje, on Sunday—AFP

SKOPJE: North Mace­donia’s first woman president was inaugurated on Sunday, with the new nationalist leader angering Greece after a speech that did not acknowledge her country’s new name.

The Balkan nation added “North” to its title in 2018 to end a long-running dispute with Greece, following an historic agreement.

But Gordana Siljan­ovska-Davkova’s party, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, opposed the accord and has refused to acknowledge the country’s new name.

The right-wing party earned an easy victory in parliamentary and presidential elections on Wednesday, with the ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) conceding defeat before any official results were announced.

Addressing lawmakers and assembled invited VIPs on Sunday, Siljan­ovska-Davkova said she would “respect the constitution and the laws and shall protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Macedonia”.

“I declare I shall carry out the office of president of Macedonia in a conscientious and responsible manner,” she added. The official written text of her address included the official name North Macedonia, a reporter saw. Siljanovska-Davkova, who turned 71 on Saturday, was elected as president to a five-year mandate after securing a second-round poll victory with 65 per cent of the vote.

She defeated Social Democratic outgoing head of state Stevo Pendarovski, who gathered 29pc. The retired university professor vowed to be the president of “all citizens”.

Skopje’s 2018 Prespa Agreement with Athens to add the prefix North to its name ended decades of quarrelling with Greece, which was opposed to its neighbour bearing the same name as that of one of its historic provinces.

The issue had seen Greece long oppose the country joining Nato — it did finally join the alliance in 2020 — and delay talks on its path to eventually becoming an EU member. But Greece reacted angrily to the new president’s speech, saying her choice of words was “a blatant violation” of their agreement.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2024

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