Macedonian Prime Minister says it is Greece's turn after his country has ratified the historic deal to rename itself
The Macedonian Prime Minister has called on Greece to follow the example after its parliament ratified a deal that would give the country the name Republic of Northern Macedonia.
Macedonia has adopted the deal as an amendment to its constitution on Friday, in accordance with an agreement with Greece to resolve a three-decade dispute.
Zoran Zaev said that lawmakers & history had written & # 39; and that he expects the neighboring country of Greece to be the first to sign the accession protocol, allowing Macedonia to finally join NATO.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev today speaks to reporters in the capital, Skopje, after parliamentarians participated last night in a historic deal paving the way to NATO membership and normalizing relations with neighboring Greece
The Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev waves to the media gallery after the parliament on Friday agreed to the constitutional changes
The republic of just over two million people was formally invited to join the NATO Alliance in 2008, but its membership was rejected by Greece, where there is strong opposition to the name of Macedonia.
Many Greeks say that it brings territorial aspirations in the direction of the province of the same name in Greece in the north of the country and appropriates its historical heritage.
The historic deal was originally reached in June, but Macedonia will not adopt its new name until it has also been ratified by the Greek Parliament. A vote is expected later in the month in Athens.
Today Prime Minister Zaev told reporters in the capital of Skopje that Greece now has a new friend Northern Macedonia & # 39 ;, and he hopes that the two nations build trust and "lots of new windows & # 39; open for cooperation.
Opponents of the change of the constitutional name of the country protest outside the parliament building prior to a session of the Macedonian parliament in the capital Skopje, Wednesday 9 January 2019
I know how difficult it was … we put the bitterness in the past and we are now proudly looking to the future, & # 39; Zaev said.
But in Greece, the upcoming vote on the name swap deal drowned the relationships between the ruling coalition partners.
The radical leftist Syriza and the right-wing populist party Independent Greeks have joined forces in 2015, with shared goals to resolve the debt crisis and fight corruption.
But while the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras wants to rubber the deal with Macedonia, Defense Minister and the leader of Independent Greeks is strongly opposed to Panos Kammenos.
The radical-left Syriza at the head of Alexis Tsipras (left) joined forces with Panos Kammenos (right) and his right-wing populist Independent Greeks party in 2015
Kammenos has repeatedly threatened to pull his legislators from the government and said he will never vote for the deal when it comes to parliament.
Meanwhile, the problem remains a controversial issue among voters in both countries. A protest against the name change took place outside the Macedonian parliament during the Friday session, and a Greek prosecutor on Saturday ordered an investigation into alleged threats against legislators.
The preliminary investigation ordered that two Greek news websites reported that lawmakers had received threatening text messages asking them to vote against the deal.
Tsipras and Kammenos meet each other on Sunday morning to discuss their differences.
The coalition has a razor-sharp majority with 153 seats in the 300-member parliament and its main opposition party, the New Democracy party, has sworn to block the deal.
The Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (R) welcomes Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the bank of Lake Prespa near Otesevo. Tsipras congratulated Zaev after the legislators decided to change the name of the country to the Republic of Northern Macedonia
But Tsipras has the undisputed support of the 145-strong Syriza group and has repeatedly expressed the certainty that he will find the 151 votes to ensure ratification of the deal by a majority in Parliament with 300 members.
Several lawmakers from small center-left parties, but also at least two from Kammenos' party, have indicated that they are willing to give their consent.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev stand up during a signing ceremony for the historic deal between officials from Greece and Macedonia on Prespes Lake, June 17, 2018
The ratification of the Macedonian parliament has been welcomed by several foreign leaders, including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Federica Mogherini, head of EU foreign policy.
To add congratulations last Friday, Matthew Nimetz, the personal envoy of the Secretary General of the U. was on the dispute over the name since 1999, who said that the agreement is a move towards a stronger foundation for peace and security in the Balkans & # 39 ;.
I would like to congratulate the (Macedonian) parliament and the citizens of the country on this achievement and on the democratic way in which this important process has been undertaken, & # 39; said Nimetz.
A spokeswoman for the government said that the timeline for ratification will be clearer later in the week, but the vote may take place this month.