Greek parliament ratifies accord to rename Macedonia

Greek parliament ratifies accord to rename Macedonia

"Today we are writing a new page for the Balkans".

The ratification vote in parliament originally was scheduled for Thursday.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed the ratification by parliament in Athens of a landmark name change deal with Macedonia as a "historic day".

Ratification of the deal in Athens is an important victory for the Greek Prime Minister. The agreement has provoked a strong backlash in both countries.

It means that Macedonia will now become the Republic of North Macedonia, or North Macedonia for short.

FYR Macedonia and Greece call it truce on the 27 year old ongoing name dispute.

The Greek prime minister said on Friday that North Macedonia had been born, however it will still take time for the name to be formally declared.

A total of 146 MPs voted against it.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote: "Mission impossible accomplished".

Some even fear their neighbour has territorial designs on its namesake Greek province.

Both countries have been under pressure to resolve the dispute, as Western nations see the further integration of Balkan countries into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a way of improving the region's stability.

The right-wing opposition leader, ahead in the polls, says he'll still veto North Macedonia's European Union accession when it comes to it - though by the time the small Balkan country is ready to join, passions may have calmed and Greeks will no doubt have other nationalist fish to fry.

In a joint statement, the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister and EP rapporteur for Macedonia Ivo Vajgl also praised the achievement.

Nimetz said reaching a new agreement "would take years, not months, given that all the issues would once again be on the table, and given that there are likely to be different political dynamics in both countries, as well as changes in the regional and global environment".

"After one year of negotiations, discussions and exhaustive diaologue, we are reaching the end of a tough and painful process", Tsipras told parliament during a heated debate on January 24.

With opinion polls showing the opposition New Democracy party will probably win elections due this year, ratification of the accord would leave Tsipras with a foreign-policy achievement after a tumultuous four years in power that nearly saw the country crash out of the euro in 2015. That includes the 145 legislators from his own Syriza party and another eight from other parties who have indicated that they will support the accord. A handful of former members of Kammenos's party, as expected, provided crucial support for approving the deal. However, despite the what it seems an obvious sign of relief for both sides, the name resolution still has to be approved by the Macedonian people and the Greek parliament.

Protesters waved Greek flags and chanted "Hands off, Macedonia" while the session inside continued late in the night.

In the past week, police have fired tear gas here as tens of thousands have demonstrated under the Greek flag, deploring what they saw as their government's capitulation to pressure from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

About 1,500 police officers were on duty in Athens, fearing a repeat of riots during a protest outside parliament on Sunday, when far-right nationalists armed with clubs, gasoline bombs and rocks tried to invade the grounds of the building.

If this happens, Greece will be the first North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member state to make such a move, in a process that is expected to pass other national parliaments during this year, resulting in Macedonia becoming a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member. Many Greeks see the name deal as Tsipras' legacy project aimed at securing his future in politics and strengthening his image beyond Greek borders.

The quarrel dates back to Macedonia's independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Years of mediation failed to achieve any result until Greece's Tsipras and Macedonia's new centre-left leader Zoran Zaev agreed a compromise solution signed last June on the banks of Lake Prespa, which divides the two countries.

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