Greek govt collapses over Macedonia name change deal

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a confidence vote scheduled for Wednesday

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced on Sunday that he will call a confidence vote in the government after his coalition partner quit over a long-standing name dispute with neighbouring country FYR Macedonia.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the Independent Greeks, bolted the government on Sunday after breaking with Tsipras over a name dispute with neighboring Macedonia.

As promised, the country's main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, boycotted the vote, although a number of its now expelled members broke ranks to support the plans of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev's government to take the country into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, assuming Greek objections are ultimately lifted and Athens ratifies the deal.

Al Jazeera's Catherine Stancl reports. He said he would also pull six other ministers from his party out of the government.

Tsipras said he had a "frank discussion" with Kammenos, whom he thanked for his government partnership, and announced that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will become the country's new defence minister.

The New Democracy member allegedly revealed the personal mobile phone numbers of ANEL MPs.

The investigation, according to judicial sources, is looking into whether personal data was violated as part of the probe.

In a parliamentary session on January 11, 81 Macedonian deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor of the proposed changes to the country's constitution, securing the required two-thirds majority. Polls indicate it will probably fail to obtain the minimum three percent of the popular vote needed to meet the Greek parliamentary election threshold.

The disagreement, which came to the fore after the smaller country gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, has seen Athens block multiple attempts by Skopje to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

Zaev said on January 12 that the lawmakers had "made history", adding: "I know how hard that was".

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered previous year.

Athens argues that use of the term "Macedonia" implies territorial claims on Greece's northern province of the same name, and on its ancient Greek heritage.

Macedonian lawmakers voted to rename their country the Republic of North Macedonia on Friday and the agreement now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect. It began almost three decades ago, with Macedonia's declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries. For the Greeks, Macedonia is significant as the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

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