Mace­do­nia Par­lia­ment Agrees To Change Coun­try’s Name


SKOPJE (Reuters) - Mace­do­nia’s par­lia­ment passed an amend­ment to the con­sti­tu­tion on Fri­day to re­name the coun­try Repub­lic of North Mace­do­nia, in line with an agree­ment with Greece to put an end to a 27-year-old dis­pute.

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.

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.

Greek prime min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras called his Mace­do­nian coun­ter­part Zo­ran Zaev to con­grat­u­late him, his of­fice said in a writ­ten state­ment. Greece blocked its neigh­bor’s as­pi­ra­tions to EU and NATO mem­ber­ship over the use of ‘Mace­do­nia’, which it said im­plied ter­ri­to­rial claims to a Greek prov­ince of the same name.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment, named af­ter the bor­der­ing town of Prespa where it was signed, is in­tended to end the dis­pute. NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg and EU com­mis­sioner in charge of en­large­ment Jo­hannes Hahn hailed the vote. “NATO strongly sup­ports the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment, which is an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to a stable and pros­per­ous re­gion,” Stoltenberg wrote on his twit­ter ac­count. “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.

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