Published: Mon, January 14, 2019

Greek defence minister quits over Macedonia name deal

Greek defence minister quits over Macedonia name deal

The move raises the possibility of snap elections and came after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos resigned in protest over an agreement to end the 27-year Macedonia name dispute.

Tsipras briefly addressed the press just after noon Sunday, announcing he is invoking the established procedure for an immediate vote of confidence in his government in Greece's parliament in order to continue the government's term to the fall of 2019, and that he would be asking Greece's current Chief of Defence, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis to step in as Defence Minister.

"We worked together for four years turning around the country and pulling it out of bailouts and austerity", Kammenos told reporters.

Kammenos, who is head of the nationalist Independent Greeks party (ANEL) which has seven MPs, said he was "sacrificing" his post over the Macedonia name issue.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he will call a confidence vote in his government after his coalition ally quit, leaving him six seats short of a majority.

If Kammenos refuses to back down, Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami party to get the agreement approved.

He added he had a "frank discussion" with Mr Kammenos, whom he thanked for his government partnership.

These highly controversial amendments required a two-thirds majority for passage, and the amendments were backed by 81 lawmakers in the 120-seat House. Polls indicate it will probably fail to obtain the minimum three percent of the popular vote needed to meet the Greek parliamentary election threshold.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy". In exchange, Athens would lift its objections to the former Yugoslav republic joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Zaev said on January 12 that the lawmakers had "made history", adding: "I know how hard that was".

"The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region", Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

"If anything, the exit of Kammenos helps clear some of the uncertainty of the last few days which were marred by his backpedaling", said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at Eurasia Group in London. In exchange, Greece would lift its objections to the country joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Zaev said he was "convinced that Greek lawmakers will recognise the historical significance of the agreement".

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. Alexander the Great still represents a source of pride for many Greeks today, while his legacy has also been taken up as a central part of Macedonia's national identity.

Last June, Zaev and Tsipras reached a landmark compromise over the name dispute.

Like this: