Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

UN envoy hails Macedonia's ratification of name deal

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 Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty
Kenny Thornton | 12 January, 2019, 21:46

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.

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.

Macedonian politicians voted on Friday (Jan 11) 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.

If approved, the name change would help resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece - opening the way for Skopje to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

The proposed name change weathered protests from nationalists in both countries - and a referendum in Macedonia that failed to meet the turnout requirement.

The vote followed intense negotiations between Zaev's center-left coalition and some opposition lawmakers, who had initially agreed to back the agreement but raised last-minute objections.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who congratulated Zaev in a phone call following Friday's successful vote, has previously 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. "The vote on constitutional amendments that changed the name, identity, history and culture was done against the constitution".

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

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered past year.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc strongly supports the deal and "remains firmly committed to continue to fully support and accompany (Macedonia) towards its common strategic goal of European Union integration". VMRO says the deal concedes too much to Greece.

The Macedonian parliament has amended the constitution to rename the country as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority.

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

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