Greece Ratifies Name Dispute Deal with ‘North Macedonia’ Thanks to Independent MPs

Greece Ratifies Name Dispute Deal with ‘North Macedonia’ Thanks to Independent MPs

Greece’s Parliament is next supposed to ratify a protocol approving Macedonia’s admission to NATO.

The long anticipated formal resolution of the decades-long Macedonia – Greece name dispute has become a fact as Greece Parliament ratified the so called Prespa (Prespes) Agreement by a slim margin, paving the way of the so renamed “Republic of North Macedonia” to join NATO and the EU.

Greece used to veto Macedonia’s bids to join the EU and NATO since it insisted the name of the former Yugoslav republic threatens its national integrity as northern Greek administrative districts are also named “Macedonia”.

The Greece – Macedonia name dispute deal was negotiated in June 2018 by Tsipras and Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the so called Prespa (Prespes) Agreement.

Under it, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia would adopt the name “Republic of North Macedonia”, while Greece would recognize its new name, and lift its vetoes to the former’s accession talks with NATO and the EU.

After a week of heated parliamentary debates and violent street protests in Athens, the Prespa (Prespes) Agreement was ratified on Friday by the 300-seat Greek Parliament with 153 votes in favor, 146 against, and 1 abstaining MP, Naftemporiki reports.

The Macedonia name dispute deal was back by all 145 MPs of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s ruling leftist party SYRIZA, and by 8 other MPs, mostly independents and defectors from other political formations.

These include independents Elena Kountoura, Katerina Papacosta, both ministers, and Thanasis Papachristopoulos of Tsipras’s former junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), MPs Stavros Theodorakis, Spyros Lykoudis and Giorgos Mavrotas from the centrist Potami party, as well as Spyros Danellis, a former Potami MP who is now independent, and Thanasis Theocharopoulos, formerly with the centrist Movement for Change, reports eKathimerini.

The ratification of the name dispute deal in Macedonia has also been tumultuous, including a failed referendum and aid from opposition defectors.

The next step for Greece will be the ratification of a so called accession protocol under which Macedonia will be able to join NATO under its new name, the Republic of North Macedonia.

The protocol ratification is deemed a formality since the name dispute deal already approved by the Greek Parliament obliges Greece not to block its neighbor’s accession to NATO any more.

“[The Republic of North Macedonia] will be a friend and an ally of Greece in its efforts for security, stability and mutual development in the region,” Greece’s Prime Minister Tsipras said of his country’s newly renamed northern neighbor after the ratification.

He described the ratification act by the Greek Parliament for Macedonia name dispute deal as “historic”.

“Today marks a historic day. Greece safeguards an important part of its history, the heritage of Ancient Greek Macedonia,” Tsipras tweeted.

The ratification coincided with the fourth anniversary since Tsipras’s leftist party SYRIZA came to power in Greece back in 2015.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the opposition conservative New Democracy party, which presently holds a 15% lead to SYRIZA in the polls, said at an Economist conference in Athens later on Friday that the Macedonia name dispute deal would create more problems for Greece than it would solve.

(Banner image: Alexis Tsipras on Twitter)

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