Macedonian lawmakers ratify Greece name deal again

A total 69 lawmakers in the 120-strong parliament approved the deal, under which the country would be renamed “North Macedonia.”

Macedonia’s parliament on Thursday ratified a historic deal with neighboring Greece for the second time in two weeks, after the Macedonian president temporarily blocked the agreement.

A total 69 lawmakers in the 120-strong parliament approved the deal, under which the country would be renamed “North Macedonia.”

All lawmakers from the conservative main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, abstained from the vote in protest at the agreement, which they say cedes too much to Greece.

The deal agreed earlier this month is meant to resolve a decades-old dispute dating back to shortly after Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece argued the name “Macedonia” implied territorial aspirations on its own northern province of the same name, birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, and on ancient Greek heritage. Macedonia denied that.

Macedonia’s parliament initially ratified the deal on June 20. But conservative President Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign off on it, saying it is unconstitutional.

Under Macedonia’s constitution Ivanov can no longer block it after the second ratification vote. However, the president might delay signing off on the deal, triggering a constitutional crisis and a showdown with leftwing Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov strongly criticized Mr. Ivanov’s stance during Thursday’s debate, accusing him of trying to terrorize the country’s population.

“The most important thing is that the deal does not jeopardize our independence,” he said. “On the contrary, (the deal) strengths our independence by opening the doors to NATO and the European Union.”

Full implementation of the agreement will take months, and is subject to a referendum in Macedonia and a parliamentary vote in Greece. If everything goes as planned, the deal will clear the way for Macedonia to start accession talks with NATO and the EU, with Greece a member of both organizations lifting its long-standing objections to such a move.

Opponents of the agreement on both sides of the border have staged a series of protests.

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