Macedonia .. a new name for the country

Macedonian MPs agreed Friday to change the name of their country to "the Republic of Northern Macedonia" in a historic vote by a two-thirds majority paving the way for resolving the dispute with Greece, whose prime minister quickly congratulated his counterpart on the result.

The ball is now in Greece's court because the name will only be changed if Greek lawmakers approve the agreement reached last summer by Prime Ministers Zoran Zaiev and Alexis Tsipras.

Greece, meanwhile, has vowed to withdraw its objection to Macedonia's 1.2 million people joining NATO and the European Union.

"Without an agreement with Greece, we will not be able to join NATO and the European Union," said Socialist Prime Minister Zoran Zaiev.

"My position on the change of name has changed my political career," he said. "We maintain our identity."

The two-thirds majority, or 81 votes, provides for the adoption of four constitutional amendments necessary to change the name of the country that broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Since that date, the Greeks consider the name "Macedonia" to be launched only on its northern territory.

Athens accuses the Republic of Macedonia of using the designation of the region's great historical and cultural heritage, especially as it is in the eyes of the Greeks the birthplace of Alexander the Great, who is one of the greatest military leaders in history.

The vote is supposed to put an end to a months-long political battle in Macedonia in which a controversial poll was held on Sept. 30 about changing the name of the country, which has long been debated in parliament.

Right-wing opposition leaders boycotted the parliamentary debate, which began on Wednesday, accusing MPs in favor of changing the name to national treason.

But a number of right-wing deputies turned against their leaders and voted with the Social Democrats and their allies in minority Albanian parties, which make up between 20 and 25 percent of the population.

This allowed for the majority of the necessary description of the law to be approved, which the ruling coalition that took power in the spring of 2017 did not enjoy.

Four right-wing lawmakers violated their party's tendencies after they were pardoned for their alleged participation in acts of violence committed by national activists in parliament in April 2017.

This prompted the right-wing opposition to accuse the prime minister of resorting to "blackmail and threats" to win the vote.

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who has ruled for more than a decade, called on parliamentarians to refuse to change the name of the country proposed by the "puppet government" headed by Zayev.

From Hungary, where he took refuge last November to block his condemnation of corruption and abuse of power, Grovesky wrote on Facebook: "Yes, a better deal can be reached."

The vote was a victory for the head of the Social Democratic government, whose opponents said the poll over the name had weakened him.

The opposition has contested the results of the poll, which 90 percent of the participants agreed to change the name of the country, based on the boycott of more than two thirds of voters.

The ball is now in the court of Greece, which must be approved by a simple majority (half plus one) of the agreement. But the margin of the Greek prime minister's maneuver is very narrow, with 153 out of 300 deputies. Tsipras's ally in the government coalition, Banos Kamenos, the defense minister and leader of a nationalist party, has been stepping down.

On Friday, the Greek government announced in a statement that "the Prime Minister congratulated Mr. Zayev on the happy conclusion of the process to amend the Constitution of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

"We will reach within ten days the outcome of the vote (in the Macedonian parliament), and if we find that things are right, we will vote," Tsebras told Open TV last week.

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