North Macedonian president's inauguration revives name dispute with Greece

North Macedonia opposition party VMRO-DPMNE presidential candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova reacts during an electoral meeting in Kumanovo

ATHENS (Reuters) -Greece threatened to hinder North Macedonia's bid to join the EU on Monday after newly elected president Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova called her country just "Macedonia" during a speech, reviving a long-running dispute over the name.

Siljanovska-Davkova - who got backing from a resurgent nationalist party in last week's vote - used the formerly widely used name during her inauguration on Sunday, violating a U.N.-brokered agreement between Athens and Skopje.

Greece has long said the use of the name by its neighbour implies territorial claims on a Greek province which is also called Macedonia.

"Any progress in our bilateral relations, as well as any step by Skopje towards Europe hinge on their honest respect of the agreement," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday.

The president's use of the name was "unlawful and unacceptable", he added.

The EU also sounded a warning. "For North Macedonia to continue its successful path on EU accession it is paramount that the country continues on the path of reforms and full respect for its binding agreements," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X on Sunday.

Siljanovska-Davkova's office said the president signed her oath using the country's constitutional name of North Macedonia and that she would "adhere to all official applications."

It added, however: "In her public appearances, the Macedonian president has the right to use the name Macedonia, as an act of personal right to self-determination and self-identification."

North Macedonia's foreign affairs ministry earlier said the country was committed to "the unequivocal observance of the Constitutional provisions as well as all internationally undertaken obligations."

Both countries agreed that Greece's neighbour would be called "North Macedonia" after long and contentious negotiations in 2018.

The so-called Prespa accord that came into force a year later appeared to end a 27-year-old dispute and cleared the way for Skopje to join the NATO military alliance.

At the time, Greece said it would support its neighbour's bid to join the European Union.

Siljanovska-Davkova was elected as president last week with the backing from North Macedonia's right-wing and nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party.

The VMRO-DPMNE - which made major gains in the vote, partly riding on a wave of frustration over sluggish progress in the country's bid to join the EU - has refused to acknowledge the Prespa deal which it sees a challenge to national sovereignty.

In Greece, Mitsotakis's conservative party also opposed the Prespa name deal when it was made.

The deal, hammered out between the then prime ministers of both countries, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, was ratified by Greece's parliament amid demonstrations by protesters who said the new name still implied a territorial claim over the northern Greek region of Macedonia.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens and Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Writing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Christina Fincher)