Greek defence minister resigns over Macedonia name change

Pauline Gross
January 14, 2019

The baffling week that followed the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holiday was marked by conflicting statements and signals from key Greek political figures as developments in Greece moved into high gear immediately after the Macedonia/FYROM Parliament approved the constitutional amendments required by the Prespes Agreement.

His left-wing Syriza party has 145 deputies in the legislature, and the prime minister may need votes from opposition lawmakers to pass the deal.

Tsipras has already said he wants the Macedonia name change vote to take place soon.

The coalition government of SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, in power since January 2015, had been widely expected to fracture over the parliamentary ratification process for the Prespes Agreement.

Macedonia was founded in 1991 and recognized by the United Nations in 1993, but was accepted to the United Nations membership with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objection to the name Macedonia.

The future of the ruling coalition government remains unclear.

The deal would change the name of Greece's northern neighbor to the Republic of North Macedonia.

The deal struck by Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev came after a change of the Government in Macedonia in 2017, which led to a more distended relationship.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to declare his belief that the deal will be ratified with the support of a few centre-left and independent lawmakers, filling in for the loss of ANEL support.

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Defence Minister and a leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party Panos Kammenos announced that the split within the coalition was caused by different views on the Macedonia name issue.

A Greek prosecutor had on Saturday ordered an investigation into allegations of threats against lawmakers over an upcoming parliamentary vote to end a 27-year dispute with Macedonia, a judicial source said.

Tsipras added that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, who held the post of the chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff since 2015, will replace Kammenos as the new defense minister.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

The new name will be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognise the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.

Athens also vetoed Macedonia's attempt to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2008 and the European Union. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

New Democracy is vehemently against the agreement but Tsipras hopes to convince opposition MPs from smaller parties to back the historic name change deal.

For the Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire.

Other reports by GizPress

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