Macedonian MPs agreed on Friday to rename their country “Republic of Northern Macedonia” following a historic vote passed by a two-thirds majority that promises to finally resolve a long-running dispute with its neighbour Greece.
However the agreement, which was reached last summer between Prime Minister’s Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, will only come into force once it is ratified in turn by the Greek parliament.
Macedonia proclaimed its independence from the former Yugoslavia In 1991, but Greece has since blocked its recognition by the international community. Athens had accused its neighbor of wanting to appropriate its historical heritage, including that of King Alexander the Great who was born in the Greek border region that bears the same name.
Greece has pledged to drop its veto against Macedonia’s accession to NATO as well as accession to the European Union for the small Balkan country of 2.1 million inhabitants.
“The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia has accepted and voted the constitutional law to implement the constitutional amendments” providing for the change of name, said the Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi.
“The vote was obtained by 81 votes out of 81 present and none against,” he continued, one vote more than the qualified majority of two-thirds (80 out of 120 deputies).
The vote was ultimately passed thank to the support of four right-wing politicians who had previously blocked the agreement but defected on Wednesday to vote with the majority.
“Without agreement with Greece, there is no NATO or EU”, “I changed my mind about the name issue, risking my political career”, “we keep our identity” social democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said before the vote.