Greek government crisis over Macedonia name change

13 January, 2019, 15:44 | Author: Carlos George
  • Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski

The historic deal was originally reached in June, but Macedonia will not adopt its new name until it has also been ratified by Greece's parliament.

Eighty-one of the Macedonian parliament's 120 members backed the name change, securing the required two-thirds majority to push it through.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters in the capital of Skopje on Saturday that he expects neighbouring Greece to be the first country to sign the accession protocol for Macedonia to become NATO's 30th member.

Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote that took place on January 11.

Panos Kammenos, whose Independent Greeks party props up the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has long opposed the accord with neighbouring Macedonia signed by their governments a year ago. Many countries, including Turkey, recognize Macedonia with its present name.

Stoltenberg said in a tweet Friday that the agreement is "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".

The two countries struck the deal on the new name in June past year, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also approves the change.

The chief of NATO and the European Union's foreign policy chief have congratulated Macedonia for approving constitutional changes to rename itself North Macedonia under a deal with Greece.

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The Macedonian parliament's ratification has been hailed by several foreign leaders, including NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

If the government loses, the next general election, due to be held in the autumn, could be brought forward.

"The vote on constitutional amendments that changed the name, identity, history and culture was done against the constitution".

Panos Kammenos, Greece's defence minister, said he had tendered his resignation during talks with Alexis Tsipras and withdrawn his ministers from the government.

Although his junior coalition partner opposes the deal, Tsipras has voiced confidence he will be able to secure ratification with the backing of opposition lawmakers.

Greece has a province called Macedonia and long demanded Skopje change its country name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers Friday that the deal with neighboring Greece, which insisted on the name change to lift its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, was the best he could secure.

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