Macedonian parliament approves country's name change

Pauline Gross
January 12, 2019

"VMRO-DPMNE will win this election and the will of the majority of the citizens will be implemented", Mickoski said in a statement.

Macedonia's parliament approved constitutional changes renaming the country North Macedonia, under a deal with neighboring Greece that will clear the way for Macedonia to join NATO and potentially the European Union.

All 81 Macedonian lawmakers present for the parliamentary vote backed the constitutional amendments.

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.

Athens has been in dispute with the country over its name, claiming that Macedonia might have territorial claims over Greece's own region of the same name.

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, will now look to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which was brokered previous year. Mickoski told reporters the constitutional changes were approved against the desires of the Macedonian people and described the vote as "an act of treason".

"I changed my opinion on the name issue in the name of progress and at the cost of my political career", he added.

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Only 36.08 percent of 1.8 million voters participated in the referendum to rename Macedonia, while the law requires a turnout of at least 50 percent plus one vote for the referendum to be valid.

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.

The move was hailed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, which had lobbied heavily for Macedonia to back the agreement despite strong criticism from the country's main opposition party, and by Greece's prime minister who has invested heavily in the deal.

For the deal to come into effect, Greece's parliament must now convene in coming weeks to ratify it.

The remaining 39 opposition lawmakers in the 120-seat house stayed away in protest.

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.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev's governing coalition needed opposition backing to get the required number of votes and had said Thursday it was struggling to achieve that after a small ethnic Albanian party raised last-minute objections.

Other reports by GizPress

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