Greece’s Parliament has decided on Friday to approve an agreement with neighbouring Macedonia to change its name to “Northern Macedonia.”
Greek lawmakers ratified the deal with 153 votes in favour and 146 against, which clocked more than 38 hours amidst debates and protests.
“North Macedonia, [which was] born today, will be a friendly country. [It will be] an ally and supporter of Greece in its efforts for security, stability and development in the region,” Tsipras said, Greek media reported.
“Future generations in both countries will owe gratitude to the deputies who, with courage and bravery, set the foundations for a future of peace, solidarity and harmonious coexistence between the two nations,” he said.
Parliament speaker Nikos Voutsis described the vote as “historic.”
The renaming, many hope and believe, will normalize relations after decades of discord.
Congratulations my friend @tsipras_eu, together with our peoples we reached a historical victory. Long live the Prespa Agreement! For eternal peace and progress of the Balkans and in Europe! pic.twitter.com/f9aIpMa4Xz
— Зоран Заев (@Zoran_Zaev) January 25, 2019
Following a four-day parliamentary debate, the ratification in the parliament was expected to take place late last night. But the Greek parliament speaker’s office announced such will only take place today.
As there is a large number of Members of Parliament, the delay meant to capture various, differing views of members of the House who wanted to speak during the debate, officials announced.
Any numbers of vote above 150, was enough to secure the ratification. The Greek Parliament has 300 members. According to the results, the ruling party Syriza got support from eight opposition lawmakers.
The ratification concludes that Greece has recognized the former Yugoslav republic as “North Macedonia,” ending a three-decade-long dispute.
From now on, Athens is to withdraw its veto of keeping Macedonia out of NATO and the European Union, according to a Prespes agreement. This has already been approved in the Macedonian parliament.
Tsipras sees the deal as “historic step,” opposition party says it’s a “historical defeat”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described his party’s move as “a historic step.” He claimed the long-standing dispute had deprived Greece of key diplomatic relations, during his speech in Parliament yesterday.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the opposition party, New Democracy (ND), labelled Prespes deal as a “national defeat and mistake.”
He accused the governing, leftist Syriza party of using the issue “to advance its narrow political objectives.”
ND leader had urged MPs to face up to their historical responsibility and vote down the agreement.
Tsipras criticised Mitsotakis for failing to condemn efforts to intimidate lawmakers supporting the deal. Tourism Minister Elena Kountura told Parliament her family had received death threats ahead before yesterday proceedings. She held up photo of a dead woman, claiming it was sent to her online.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura says her family has received death threats ahead of tonight's vote. In Parliament, holds up photo of dead woman sent to her online. #Greece #Macedonia pic.twitter.com/mfPwlgVczv
— Derek Gatopoulos (@dgatopoulos) January 24, 2019
“If anything happens to myself or my family, the blame will lie not only with the perpetrators but also those inciting them,” she said.
Thousands gather to protest in an anti-Prespes rally
The Golden Dawn is a far-right Greek party opposing the deal. A rally by the party on Sunday left more than twenty-five police officers wounded due to attacks by extremists in the forecourt of the Parliament.
Some protestors beat two journalists who were trying to cover the protests.
About 1,500 police officers hit the streets surrounding Parliament near Syntagma square yesterday, in the wake of a new rally invoked by Golden Dawn.
“We call all Greeks on Thursday to a relentless and unceasing battle,” one far-right website said in a post on Wednesday.
Several thousand people gathered outside the Greek legislature last night, chanting “traitors,” Kathimerini reported.
Greek police used teargas to disperse crowds.
— Iliana Mier-Lavin (@imlavin) January 24, 2019
Greek Communist Party (KKE) is also opposing the deal with the ex-Yugoslav state. Members of the party demonstrated against the agreement near the United States embassy yesterday.
Polls show that six in 10 Greeks oppose the Prespes deal, according to Pulse. Its new opinion poll showed conservative New Democracy maintained a lead over leftist Syriza.
Former junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) was below the three percent threshold for entering Parliament, according to the poll.
ANEL’s leader Panos Kammenos, the former Defence Minister, resigned earlier this month citing his opposition to the Prespes deal. Centris Potami, which also lost its group in Parliament following the division in the coalition was seen attracting just one percent of the votes.
Independent Greeks leader and former defence minister holds up this evening of North Macedonia's PM Zaev's meeting with George Soros, alleging it has been Soros' plan all along to "dissolve" Greece. #vouli pic.twitter.com/78sKRIQDEh
— Damian Mac Con Uladh (@damomac) January 24, 2019
A long battle over the name, Macedonia?
Athens argues the use of the term “Macedonia” implicates territorial ambitions on its own northern province of the same name. Macedonia province is the birthplace of the ancient warrior-king Alexander the Great.
People who oppose Prespes deal justify the ex-Yugoslav country must totally exclude the name “Macedonia” from its name.
“Prespes” is the border lake between two countries, where the deal was signed.
The deal has faced strong opposition both in Macedonia and Greece. Macedonia’s Parliament had ratified the agreement earlier.
It cost the Tsipras government its parliamentary majority following a breakup in the coalition over the Prespes name deal. Tsipras government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote last week.