Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

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.

Officials of the main opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who refused to take part in the parliamentary debate, claimed the name change was national treason.

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.

Athens and Skopje reached the agreement on renaming Macedonia in June.

Macedonian politicians voted on Friday to change the country's name to "Republic of North Macedonia", settling a decades-long row with Greece and paving the way for NATO and European Union membership.

Macedonia's parliament approved the name change under a deal with Greece that will clear the way for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and potentially the European Union.

Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

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The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has asked for an early election. The so-called Prespa agreement seeks to end a 27-year-long dispute between Athens and Skopje over the name Macedonia.

"My sincerest congratulations to political actors and citizens of the hopefully soon to be North Macedonia on parliament's vote on the constitutional changes", Hahn tweeted.

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.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the move would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future".

Tsipras has said he sees the Macedonia deal as "one of his greatest legacies" as premier, second only to leading Greece out of the bailout era. "The vote on constitutional amendments that changed the name, identity, history and culture was done against the constitution". The proposed name change weathered protests from nationalists in both countries - and a referendum in Macedonia that failed to meet the turnout requirement.

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

However several opposition MPs broke ranks and voted for the change, alongside the ruling Social Democratic party and their junior coalition partners from the ethnic Albanian minority.

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