Macedonia's parliament votes to accept new name

Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country

The vote in Athens threatens to destabilise Tsipras' ruling coalition, as the junior party in government, the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, strongly opposes the Prespes agreement.

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.

Over the past three days, several hundred people protested against the deal in front of the parliament.

"VMRO-DPMNE calls for the immediate dissolution of the parliament and holding the snap [legislative] election alongside the presidential vote [scheduled for April] in line with the law and experience".

While some of the VMRO-DPMNE members supported the renaming, others boycotted the vote, leaving Mickoski with 39 mandates in the 120-strong parliament. The so-called Prespa agreement seeks to end a 27-year-long dispute between Athens and Skopje over the name Macedonia.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office said he spoke to Zaev after Friday's vote.

Greece has blocked that path since Macedonia broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 because, it says, the name Macedonia should apply exclusively to its own northern province.

Macedonia's prime minister says his country's approval of constitutional changes to rename itself North Macedonia is a tough but necessary decision.

Tsipras has said he sees the Macedonia deal as "one of his greatest legacies" as premier, second only to leading Greece out of the bailout era.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hailed the vote, expressing expectations "that Republic of North Macedonia will soon be able to join NATO and start discussions for entry into the European Union".

All 81 lawmakers present voted in favor of the constitutional amendments. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had required a minimum 80 votes to have the changes ratified.

He secured the required two-thirds parliamentary majority to push the constitutional change through.

The name change follows an agreement with neighboring Greece, which in turn is bound by the terms of the deal to remove its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and then potentially the European Union.

Previous Greek governments have also claimed that the tiny Republic of Macedonia might use the name to make territorial claims on its province.

The main opposition conservative New Democracy party also rejects the agreement, but Tsipras can rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami party to get it approved.

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