Two thirds of the Macedonian parliament supported the change in the name of the country in the "Republic of Northern Macedonia". Greece should now support the agreement
Photo: Ognen Teofilovski / Reuters
On Friday 11 January, 81 out of 120 Members of the Macedonian Parliament voted in favor of amendments to the Constitution necessary to rename the country. This was an important step towards the implementation of the agreement between Greece and Macedonia, agreed in June by the Prime Ministers of Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras.
The agreement was signed by the leaders of the two countries on 17 June 2018 on the shores of Lake Prespa. According to it, Macedonia will receive a new name "Republic of North Macedonia". In return, the Greek authorities promised that they would not stop Skopje's attempts to join NATO and the European Union. The ancient name of the republic did not apply to Athens, since the toponym "Macedonia" geographically covers, among other things, the Greek Aegean Macedonia, which could have given the Macedonian territories the right to claim rights on the territories and cultural heritage of Greece.
The deputies of the ruling party of the Social Democratic Union, as well as the opposition forces, voted in favor of the constitutional amendments. The renaming of the country was supported by non-partisan members who had previously been members of the opposition "Democratic Party of the Macedonian National Unit" (VMRO-DPNE), reports Bloomberg. The VMRO-DPNE leadership is opposed to the Prespan agreement and the majority of the party's legislators boycotted the vote on Friday, reports the publication of Balkan Insight.
The last step towards the implementation of the agreement should be the approval of the Greek Parliament. In order for Zaev and Tsipras to come into force, at least 151 of the 300 Athens legislators must ratify it.
The ruling coalition, led by the far-left party leader SYRIZA Tsipras, controls 153 seats in the legislative chamber. However, Panos Kammenos, the Greek Defense Minister, leader of the center-right independent party of the Greeks, who is part of the ruling coalition, spoke against the agreement. He complained that, after renaming the name, the name of the neighboring country still included the word "Macedonia". Previously, Kammenos had threatened to stop supporting the Tsipras government due to disagreements over the Prespan affair. On Wednesday, November 9, the prime minister assured that he remains confident in the stability of his government. He is also convinced that it is possible to find sufficient votes in favor of the agreement with Macedonia, even without the support of the "Independent Greeks", who control seven seats in parliament.
In addition to the independent Greeks, the opposition party New Democrats, whose representation in the legislative chamber has 78 seats, also opposes the ratification of the agreement. However, the agreement of Tsipras and Zaev is supported by other opposition parties, so it is likely to be ratified, Bloomberg. Kammenos is bluffing and will eventually support the agreement to rename Macedonia, said New Democrat MP Dora Bakoyanni.
Experts expect that the agreement will be ratified. "Kammenos will behave like VMRO-DPNE: the Prespa agreement will criticize publicly, but in the end it will take care of its deputies to help guarantee the majority in parliament [для ратификации сделки]"- I wrote on Twitter Dimitar Bechev, researcher at the University of North Carolina. "At the news that the Greek opposition will support ratification [сделки]it seems that we are finally in the final part of the settlement of the problem with the name of Macedonia "- declared Balkan policy expert Jasmin Muzhanovich.
According to the laws of Macedonia, the procedure for amending the country's Constitution requires several voting rounds in parliament. The last vote took place in October, then 80 deputies voted to change the name of the country.