NATO, EU support Macedonia's vote to change name

Clay Curtis
January 12, 2019

Demonstrators wave flags in front of the parliament building in Skopje on 23 June 2018 during a protest against the new name of the country, the Republic of North Macedonia.

A United Nations envoy has praised Macedonia after its parliament approved a deal with Greece that would rename the country North Macedonia.

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.

"A better deal could not be reached, and without an agreement with Greece there will be no North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union (membership)", Zaev said.

Opponents to the proposal say they are defending Macedonia's name, identity, and history, as well as the traditions of the Macedonian people, against what they call "the greatest national treachery".

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.

Officials of the main opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who refused to take part in the parliamentary debate, denounced the name change as treason.

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

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The centre-left coalition in Skopje secured support from enough smaller parties to give it the necessary two-thirds majority for a constitutional change.

"The prime minister congratulated Mr Zaev on the successful conclusion of the process to revise the constitution of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia", Tsipras' office said in a statement.

Greece's prime minister has congratulated his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, after Macedonia's parliament approved constitutional changes that fulfil its part of a deal to normalize relations with Greece.

But he too has a fragile parliamentary majority, with 153 deputies in the 300-seat Greek parliament.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has asked for an early election.

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 Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, and the European Union commissioner in charge of enlargement, Johannes Hahn, hailed the vote.

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