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Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name

12 January 2019

Macedonia's parliament passed an amendment to the constitution on Friday to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia in line with an agreement with Greece to put an end to a 27-year-old dispute.

FYR Macedonia is controversial for Greeks because it uses the same name as a neighbouring region in northern Greece.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leader Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, under which Greece will lift its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

Revising the constitution to change the country's name to the "Republic of North Macedonia" was part on an agreement signed by Tsipras and Zaev in June.

Friday's vote brought an end to months of political bickering in Macedonia that included a controversial consultative referendum in September and a long parliamentary battle.

A spokesperson for the governing Social Democrats said the ethnic Albanian lawmakers also agreed to back the deal.

Mr Tsipras himself has repeatedly expressed his confidence that he will find the needed 151 votes to pass the deal with a simple majority in Greece's 300-member Parliament.

"A new historical chapter in our statehood has been written this evening", the Macedonian government said in a statement.

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But he too has a fragile parliamentary majority, with 153 deputies in the 300-seat Greek parliament.

Representatives of the conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote.

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristjan Mickoski on Friday also urged Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to call an early election this spring.

Several hundred people have been protesting outside FYR Macedonia's parliament in recent days.

Macedonia's rightwing president, Gjorge Ivanov, has been a vocal opponent of the proposed name change and continues to speak out against it.

For the agreement to come into effect, Greece's parliament must now convene in coming weeks to ratify it - a tricky task for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who faces strong opposition to the agreement from his junior coalition partner.

ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who is Tsipras' defence minister, has threatened to pull out of the government when the deal comes to a vote in Athens.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg congratulated Zaev on Twitter and reiterated the Alliance's support for the deal with Athens.

Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name