Sun, Jan 13, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Macedonia gets new name

AP, SKOPJE

Legislators vote on whether to change the country’s name at parliament in Skopje on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Macedonia on Friday fulfilled its part of a historic deal that will pave its way to NATO membership and normalize relations with neighboring Greece after lawmakers approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia.

The move was hailed by NATO and the EU, which had lobbied heavily for Macedonia to back the agreement, despite strong criticism from the country’s main opposition party and by Greece’s prime minister, who has invested heavily in the deal.

All 81 Macedonian lawmakers present for the parliamentary vote backed the constitutional amendments. The remaining 39 opposition lawmakers in the 120-seat house stayed away in protest.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers that the deal was a “tough” but necessary decision for the country.

The vote followed intense negotiations between Zaev’s coalition and some opposition lawmakers, who had initially agreed to back the agreement, but raised last-minute objections.

“A better deal could not be reached, and without an agreement with Greece there will be no NATO and European Union” membership, Zaev said.

The agreement on changing the name came after a 27-year dispute with Greece, which complained that the small, landlocked country calling itself Macedonia implied claims on Greece’s own territory and cultural heritage.

Macedonian leaders denied that.

The deal encountered strong opposition on both sides of the border, with critics on each side saying it offered too many concessions to the other side.

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