Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

Frederick Owens
January 13, 2019

The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after lawmakers in Greece also ratify 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.

The nation, which emerged from the break-up of Yugoslavia, will become North Macedonia, ending a 27-year dispute with neighbouring Greece, which has complained that the name Macedonia implied territorial claims on its northern region of the same name as well as its cultural heritage. The remaining 39 opposition lawmakers stayed away.

Representatives of the conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, seen on the right, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the name change agreement.

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.

"NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region", Stoltenberg wrote on his twitter account.

But in Greece, the upcoming vote on the name-change deal has soured relations between the ruling coalition partners.

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She said the European Union strongly supports the deal and will "fully support" Macedonia's goal of joining the EU.

Eighty-one of the Macedonian parliament's 120 members backed the name change, securing the required two-thirds majority to push it through.

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered previous year.

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.

Several hundred people have protested against the deal in front of parliament over the past three days.

Macedonian lawmakers approved the agreement late Friday.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers Friday that the deal with neighboring Greece, which insisted on the name change to lift its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, was the best he could secure.

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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