Macedonia parliament votes in favor of a name change

Macedonia’s parliament has approved a constitutional amendment to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev narrowly secured the two-thirds majority needed in the historic vote amid a boycott by opposition nationalists.

Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor. Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, who opposed the agreement with Greece, boycotted the vote.

“A new historical chapter in our statehood has been written this evening,” the Macedonian government said in a statement.

“It makes absolutely plausible two of our biggest state interests – membership in NATO and EU,” it said.

Protesters outside parliament denounced what they called an act of treason.

The name change is aimed at ending a 27-year dispute with Greece, which has its own region called Macedonia.

The Greek parliament must now give its approval under a deal signed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Zaev in June.

Greece blocked its neighbor’s aspirations to EU and NATO membership over the use of ‘Macedonia’.

Tsipras called Zaev to congratulate him on the “successful conclusion of the process to revise the constitution of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” his office said.

More than 90% of Macedonian voters backed the name change in a non-binding referendum in September but the vote was rendered invalid due to low turnout.

When Macedonia declared independence during the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece objected to its new neighbor’s name.

Since 1991, many suggestions have been proposed, then rejected.

But a change of government in Macedonia in 2017 finally brought the start of serious negotiations, which led to the deal reached last year.

Under the agreement, the country’s language will be called Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

The new name will be used both internationally and bilaterally so that even the 140 or more countries that recognize the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia. In Macedonian, the name is Severna Makedonija.

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