Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia

Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country
Ellis Copeland | 13 January, 2019, 11:15

The Greeks have accused their northern neighbours of intent to steal the identity and even territory from their own ancient province with that name, which Macedonia has denied.

Macedonia's prime minister says his country's approval of constitutional changes to rename itself North Macedonia is a tough but necessary decision.

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.

The main opposition New Democracy party has said it will block the deal.

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

Tsipras has said he sees the Macedonia deal as "one of his greatest legacies" as premier, second only to leading Greece out of the bailout era.

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".

The historic deal was originally reached in June, but Macedonia will not adopt its new name until it has also been ratified by Greece's parliament. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.

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Opponents of the agreement, mostly supporters of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, were holding a peaceful protest late Friday outside parliament in Skopje, the capital.

If approved, the name change would help resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece - opening the way for Skopje to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had required a minimum 80 votes to have the changes ratified.

The Greek parliament will now have to do the same.

Macedonia's center-left government said Friday it has secured the required number of parliamentary votes to finalize constitutional changes that will rename the country North Macedonia and pave the way to NATO membership.

Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs had voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority.

Eighty-one lawmakers voted in favor of the constitutional amendments.

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

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