Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name, paving way to EU membership

Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name, paving way to EU membership
Macedonia's parliament passed an amendment to the constitution on Friday to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, a move which formally ends a 27-year dispute with Greece.Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favour of the change. Representatives of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who said the agreement concedes too much to Greece, boycotted the vote.The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after lawmakers in Greece also ratify the agreement.Greece has repeatedly blocked its neighbour's aspirations to join the EU and NATO over the use of "Macedonia," which Athens says implies territorial claims over the Greek province of Macedonia and an appropriation of ancient Greek culture and civilization.Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had required a minimum 80 votes to have the changes ratified. At the start of the parliamentary session, he told deputies the name change was a tough but necessary decision that would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future," and to joining the North Atlantic military alliance.Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who congratulated Zaev in a phone call following Friday's successful vote, has previously said once Greece is formally notified by Macedonia of the constitutional changes, he will swiftly launch the process of ratifying the agreement in Greece's parliament.The junior coalition partner in Greece's government opposes the deal, but Tsipras has voiced confidence he will be able to secure ratification with the backing of opposition lawmakers.Several hundred people have protested against the deal in front of parliament over the past three days.