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Macedonia will change its name. Here's why it matters



According to the agreement, the neighbor of Greece will use the name "Republic of Macedonia", a name which it itself chooses when it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Instead, it will call itself "the Republic of Northern Macedonia." Subsequent months of street protests and heated debate in both countries, the name transaction has overcome the last of a number of obstacles in Athens on Friday with 153 votes in support of the 300-seat parliament.

The change is important because Greece, member of both NATO and the EU, has blocked Skopje's membership of NATO and the beginning of accession negotiations with the EU until the name dispute is resolved. Under the agreement, Greece will raise its objections, paving the way for the neighbor's integration.

Both countries have been under pressure to resolve the conflict, as Western nations see further integration of the Balkan countries into the EU and NATO as a way of improving the region's stability. The movement may even serve as a compromise that can facilitate other regional conflicts. But Moscow is openly opposed to Macedonia's aspirations, as it has long been a major player in the region.

The agreement, which was first ratified in Skopje, follows the Social Democrats' defeat of Macedonia's nationalist conservatives. It has significantly improved the climate between the two neighboring countries after decades of strong nationalist rhetoric on both sides.

Since the early 1

990s, the cards have spread widely in Greece with the borders of the country extending to the port city of Thessaloniki, the capital of Greek Macedonia, the expulsion of territorial fears. A gigantic statue of the ancient Macedonian King Alexander the Great raised in Skopje's central square drove further demands for cultural looting.

In the summer of 2018, the relaxation of relations led to a joint statement by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev that the name quarrel was finally over. In a solemn ceremony held by Lake Prespa, where the borders of Greece, Albania and Macedonia met, the two men signed the landmark agreement, known as the Prespa Agreement.

Deal seen as PM's heritage project

] The agreement has been subject to widespread criticism in both countries in the steps that led to ratification. A referendum in Skopje experienced poor envoy and the Greek government has survived two independent votes for seven months and the loss of its junior coalition partner over the agreement.
  Macedonia sees low turnout in name change referendum in the middle of the information campaign

Concerns are about identity and how it can affect future security. Opponents say the addition of the word "north" can help define geographical terms, but it does nothing to separate nationality and language, which can form the basis of minority issues and territorial demands.

With the latest polls showing that more than six in 10 Greeks oppose the deal, demonstrations have been held all over the country in the build-up to Friday's vote. A protest rally in Athens Sunday participated in tens of thousands were destroyed by violence.

The Greek Prime Minister has used the political capital to press the agreement, describing it as a "patriotic duty". He also acknowledged that the agreement would come "at a political price". His party is subsequently 10% behind the main opposition, a strong opponent of the agreement. The main opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, of the new democracy party who spoke in parliament prior to Friday's vote, described a ratification of the agreement as "a national error that is an offense to the truth and history."

Shortly after, the agreement was ratified, says Tspiras in a tweet: "Today we are writing a new page in the Balkans. National hatred, disputes and conflicts provide room for friendship, peace and cooperation."

His Macedonian counterparts shared the same positive outlook in a congratulations to the Greek President.

European leaders also took social media to celebrate the agreement. The President of the European Council Donald Tusk praised Tspiras and Zaev for their courage to find a space, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the confirmation of the Prespa agreement as "an important contribution to stability and prosperity throughout the region".

"They had the imagination, they took the risk, they were ready to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good," Tusk wrote in his official Twitter account.

Polls indicate that Tsipras will lose an election this year. The 44-year-old politicians joined in 2015 as an economic populist at the height of Greece's financial crisis and promised to rewrite the conditions of Greece's rescue operation with great fanfare, but without much success. Many Greeks see the name as Tsipras & # 39; heritage project with the purpose of securing its future in politics and strengthening its image beyond Greek borders.


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