Macedonia's parliament votes to accept new name

Cheryl Sanders
January 12, 2019

Macedonian deputies voted Friday to change the country's name to "the Republic of North Macedonia", settling a decades-long row with Greece and paving the way to NATO and European Union membership.

The two countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also ratifies the agreement.

Macedonia's parliament has approved changing the country's name to North Macedonia, appeasing Greece and bringing the country one step closer to membership in NATO.

Greece has blocked the path to both worldwide organisations since Macedonia broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 because, it said, the name Macedonia should apply exclusively to its own northern province.

A spokesperson for the governing Social Democrats said the ethnic Albanian lawmakers also agreed to back the deal.

But the Macedonian constitution stipulates that as the measure was passed by a two-thirds majority, the president has no choice but to sign it into law.

Tsipras spoke with Zaev on Friday to congratulate him after the vote, the Greek prime minister's office said.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the move would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future".

The chief of NATO and the European Union's foreign policy chief have congratulated Macedonia for approving constitutional changes to rename itself North Macedonia under a deal with Greece.

Athens has promised to lift its veto on Skopje's attempts to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union on condition Macedonia changes its name.

The remaining 39 opposition lawmakers in the 120-seat house stayed away in protest. "VMRO-DPMNE will win this election and the will of the majority of the citizens will be implemented", Mickoski said in a statement.

For the agreement to come into effect, Greece's parliament must now convene in coming weeks to ratify it - a tricky task for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who faces strong opposition to the agreement from his junior coalition partner.

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.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support of the agreement on Friday, calling it "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".

Other reports by iNewsToday