Macedonian parliament agrees to change country’s name

Demonstrators wave flags in front of the parliament building in Skopje on 23 June 2018 during a protest against the new name of the country the Republic of North Macedonia

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.

Several hundred people have protested against the deal in front of parliament over the past three days.

The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also ratifies the agreement. Greece had insisted that Macedonia change its name to North Macedonia before it would lift its objections to the country joining NATO and the European Union.

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.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has asked for an early election.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who congratulated Zaev in a phone call following Friday's successful vote, has previously said once Greece is formally notified by Macedonia of the constitutional changes, he will swiftly launch the process of ratifying the agreement in Greece's parliament.

The change is the result of a dispute between Macedonia and Greece over history and national identity that has lasted 27 years. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.

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

Ahead of the vote, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had emphasised the historic importance of the decision.

For the deal to come into effect, Greece's parliament must now convene in coming weeks to ratify it.

Macedonia's government was holding emergency talks for a second day on January 11 to try to secure a two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment that would rename the country the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs had voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority.

Mickoski told reporters the move to appease Greece was made against the desires of the Macedonian people "and is an act of treason". Macedonian opposition parties and nationalists say changing the name of the country and national symbols is too high price to pay for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession.

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