Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, left, and her North Macedonian counterpart Stevo Pendarovski review the Greek presidential guard before their meeting as part of Pendarovski's two-day official visit to Greece, in Athens, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Aris Messinis/Pool via AP)
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The president of North Macedonia paid the country’s first state visit to Greece on Tuesday as the neighboring nations continue working to move past decades-old disputes.
President Stevo Pendarovski met in Athens with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, seeking support for his country’s stalled effort to join the European Union.
The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia declared independence in 1991 but only normalized relations with Greece in 2018 after agreeing to change its name to North Macedonia to address Athens’ concerns for its own northern region of Macedonia.
North Macedonia and five other western Balkan countries - Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo - are all seeking EU membership, but existing members are divided on the timetable of the 27-nation bloc’s expansion.
The leaders of the six Balkans countries are set to join an EU summit meeting in Slovenia on Wednesday.
Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, welcomes North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski before their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Pendarovski is on a two-day official visit to Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)