Macedonia goes ahead with historic vote to change its constitutional name despite Russian backed opposition resistance

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Skopje, Macedonia | 21 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Macedonia’s ruling socialists have gone ahead with a controversial vote in parliament which will eventually lead to the small Balkan country changing its constitutional name to North Macedonia.

The landmark parliamentary move of 80 against 39 MPs to amend the constitution and to allow the Balkan nation to change its name, follows a national referendum which failed to reach the required threshold to make it binding.

The vote will end three decades of diplomatic conflicts with is southern neighbor Greece, which to date has blocked Macedonia’ integration into NATO and the European Union. Greece has been opposing the name of Macedonia, which is the same as its northern region.

Instead, thanks to a recent agreement signed by both prime ministers in Prespa, the country will be called North Macedonia. According to the deal, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed that if Macedonia was renamed North Macedonia, Greece would stop blocking Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union and NATO.

Opposition rightwing nationalists VMRO party, backed by Russia, fought hard to prevent any of their MPs backing Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s attempt to amend the constitution – however, eight of them voted in favor, prompting their immediate ejection from the VMRO party.

The United States and the European Union have hailed the move as an historic decision which would open the way for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, fearing recent Russian advances on the small Balkan nation.

The US State Department welcomed the parliamentary result, which was opposed by Russia. In a tweet over the weekend, the department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “The US believes that the Prespa Agreement is a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region.

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