Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

NATO, EU support Macedonia's vote to change name

NATO, EU support Macedonia's vote to change name

Macedonia's parliament has approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia, under a deal with neighboring Greece that will clear the way for Macedonia to join NATO and potentially the European Union.

Macedonia's parliament passed an amendment to the constitution on Friday to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, a move which formally ends a 27-year dispute with Greece. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports. Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, who opposed the agreement with Greece, boycotted the vote.

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".

The approval of two-thirds majority, or 80 of 120-member parliament, was required to pass the constitutional amendment.

"NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region", Stoltenberg wrote on his twitter account. Mickoski told reporters the constitutional changes were approved against the desires of the Macedonian people and described the vote as "an act of treason".

She said the European Union strongly supports the deal and will "fully support" Macedonia's goal of joining the EU.

Macedonian lawmakers voted through the agreement late on Friday and it now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect.

"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, after the vote.

Zoran Zaev said that lawmakers had "made history" and that he expects neighbouring Greece to be the first to sign the accession protocol which would finally enable Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Hundreds of Macedonian opposition supporters protested peacefully in front of parliament for a third day, demanding early elections and the dissolution of parliament.

It is unclear how other ANEL lawmakers will vote.

Greece is bound by terms of the deal to stop blocking Macedonia from NATOand other global groups and to allow it to start European Union accession talks as part of the deal.

Many Greeks are irked that their Balkan neighbor is assuming a name linked to Greek heritage and identical to a northern region of Greece.

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