Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia

13 January, 2019, 11:13 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Demonstrators wave flags in front of the parliament building in Skopje on 23 June 2018 during a protest against the new name of the country the Republic of North Macedonia

Many Greeks are irked that their Balkan neighbor is assuming a name linked to Greek heritage and identical to a northern region of Greece.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev secured the required majority in parliament on Friday that was needed to rename the country in line with a landmark agreement with Greece to end a decades-long dispute.

A Greek prosecutor on Saturday ordered an investigation into alleged threats to lawmakers over a name deal with Greece's neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a judicial source said.

However several opposition MPs broke ranks and voted for the change, alongside the ruling Social Democratic party and their junior coalition partners from the ethnic Albanian minority.

Separately, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras previously stated that they were planning to take this agreement to the Greek Parliament in January.

Macedonia will soon become a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and then accede to the European Union, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Saturday.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hailed the vote, expressing expectations "that Republic of North Macedonia will soon be able to join NATO and start discussions for entry into the European Union". Representatives of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who said the agreement concedes too much to Greece, boycotted the vote.

Macedonia approved the deal on Friday, while Greece's parliament is expected to vote on it before March.

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The vote came after three days of negotiations between Zaev and lawmakers that opposed the change.

However, the ball is now in Athens' court as the name change will be effective only once it is cleared by the Greek parliament.

- This item corrects the number of opposition lawmakers staying away to 39.

"The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region", Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor, securing the required two-thirds majority, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

Friday's vote brought an end to months of political bickering in Macedonia that included a controversial consultative referendum in September and a long parliamentary battle.

Greece is bound by terms of the deal to stop blocking Macedonia from NATOand other worldwide groups and to allow it to start European Union accession talks as part of the deal.

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