Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Macedonians' vote for new name ends rift with Greece

Macedonians' vote for new name ends rift with Greece

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, seen on the right, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the name change agreement.

The name dispute has seen Athens veto multiple attempts to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Zaev said he was "convinced that Greek lawmakers will recognise the historical significance of the agreement".

People gather outside the parliament building in Macedonia to protest the country's name change to North Macedonia. A vote is expected in Athens later in the month. Greece had previously referred to Macedonia as Skopje, after its capital, or Fyrom, an acronym for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

'I know how hard that was. we are putting the bitterness in the past and we are looking now proudly to the future, ' Zaev said.

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"The vote on constitutional amendments that changed the name, identity, history and culture was done against the constitution".

The radical left-wing Syriza and the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party joined forces in 2015, with the shared aims of solving the then-debt crisis and fighting corruption.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has said he wants to bring the deal - which has brought his coalition government to the brink of breakup - to parliament in coming weeks.

Meanwhile the issue continues to be a contentious subject among voters in both countries.

Opponents of the deal protested outside of the Macedonian parliament on Friday, responding to the vote with calls of "traitors", AP reports. They greeted the vote result with cries of "traitors".

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Tsipras and Kammenos are to meet Sunday morning to discuss their differences.

The party's leader Hristjan Mickoski accused the government of securing parliamentary approval by "blackmailing" lawmakers and urged Zaev to call an early election this spring.

But Tsipras has the unquestioned backing of the 145-strong Syriza parliamentary group, and has repeatedly expressed certainty that he will find the 151 votes to ensure ratification of the deal by a majority in the 300-member Parliament.

However, it appears that some of Mr Kammenos's lawmakers are ready to desert him, while some lawmakers from small centre-left parties are ready to back the deal.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support of the agreement on Friday, calling it "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".

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Macedonian lawmakers were convening later Friday to vote on the amendments, for which a super majority of two-thirds of the 120 members - or 80 votes - is required.

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