Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia


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

Greece's prime minister has congratulated his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, after Macedonia's parliament approved constitutional changes that fulfil its part of a deal to normalize relations with Greece.

Macedonia's parliament ratified the name change deal on Friday, but it will not go into effect until Athens does the same.

The agreement on changing the name comes after a 27-year dispute, with Greece complaining that the name Macedonia implies claims on Greece's own territory and cultural heritage.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a working visit to Athens, has expressed strong support for the agreement.

Kammenos has called the accord a national sellout and repeatedly threatened to leave if it came before the Greek parliament for ratification, expected later this month.

Zaev's governing coalition needed opposition backing to get the required number of votes and had said on January 10 that it was struggling to achieve that after a small ethnic Albanian party raised last-minute objections.

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The Macedonian parliament has amended the constitution to rename the country as the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The government hopes, however, that the pact will still pass with the support of centre-left and independent lawmakers.

A New Democracy member allegedly revealed the personal mobile phone numbers of ANEL lawmakers.

"The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region", Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

The preliminary investigation was ordered two Greek news websites reported that lawmakers had received threatening text messages demanding they vote against the deal. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", he said.

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.

"Are you in favor of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?" In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

Last June, Zaev and Tsipras reached a landmark compromise over the name dispute, with the pair nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.