The Greek parliament has voted to back an agreement on a name change for Macedonia, ending almost 30 years of dispute with its neighbour and paving the way for its integration with the European Union and NATO.
The vote was passed by 153 deputies in favour, with 146 against, to ratify a deal reached in June between Athens and Skopje, which renames the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) as “Republic of North Macedonia”.
The agreement was welcomed by several European Union and NATO officials, while Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke of a “historic day” opening up a “new page” for the Balkans.
The head of the Macedonian government also hailed a “historic victory” and congratulated his “friend” Alexis Tsipras.
“Together with our peoples, we have achieved a historic victory, long live the Prespa Agreement for eternal peace and progress in the Balkans and in Europe,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev tweeted.
Validated on 11 January by the Macedonian Parliament, the text was adopted by the Greek Chamber after 40 hours of heated debate. Despite angry opposition from far-right deputies the announcement of the results by the President of the Chamber, Nikos Voutsis, met with applause from deputies of Alexis Tsipras party Syriza.
Beyond the name issue, the so-called Prespa Agreement (or Prespa) helps to remove a significant obstacle to entry into the EU and NATO for the former Yugoslav republic, with Athens pledging to drop its veto on Skopje joining these organisation now that the deal is ratified.
Welcoming a “crucial step”, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the two countries have seized this unique opportunity which (…) will impel new impetus to the European perspective in the region”.
“Mission impossible accomplished”, tweeted Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he “looks forward to the Republic of North Macedonia joining NATO in the future”, hailing the “important contribution” of Athens “to the stability and prosperity of the whole region”.