Published: Sat, January 12, 2019

Macedonia's opposition decries name change vote

Macedonia's opposition decries name change vote

Under the agreement, after Skopje cements the name change with constitutional amendments, Tsipras is to push the ratification of the agreement through the Greek parliament.

Last year Skopje and Athens agreed on a deal for the name change and this is the first step in ratifying it.

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

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

Opponents of the deal protested outside of the Macedonian parliament on Friday, responding to the vote with calls of "traitors", AP reports. Both Greece and its northern neighbor consider Alexander, and the name, integral parts of their identity, Kakissis reports.

Ahead of the vote, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had emphasised the historic importance of the decision.

Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor. Representatives of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who said the agreement concedes too much to Greece, boycotted the vote.

"My sincerest congratulations to political actors and citizens of the hopefully soon to be North Macedonia on parliament's vote on the constitutional changes", Hahn tweeted.

The party's leader Hristjan Mickoski accused the government of securing parliamentary approval by "blackmailing" lawmakers and urged Zaev to call an early election this spring.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday congratulated Zaev after the vote.

Tsipras has said once Greece is formally notified by Macedonia of the constitutional changes, he will swiftly launch the process of ratifying the agreement in Greece's parliament.

Mickoski told reporters the move to appease Greece was made against the desires of the Macedonian people "and is an act of treason".

But there is still opposition to the change.

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.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has said he wants to bring the deal - which has brought his coalition government to the brink of breakup - to parliament in coming weeks.

Previous Greek governments have also claimed that the tiny Republic of Macedonia might use the name to make territorial claims on its province.

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