Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras congratulated the country after the historic vote
Macedonia's parliament has passed an amendment to the constitution to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, to end to a 27-year dispute with Greece.
Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favour of the amendment. Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, who opposed the agreement with Greece, boycotted the vote.
The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also ratifies the agreement.
Greece blocked its neighbour's aspirations to EU and NATO membership over the use of 'Macedonia', which it said implied territorial claims by to a Greek province of the same name.
However, shortly after the vote on Friday Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras congratulated Mr Zaev after deputies in Skopje voted to change the country's name to the Republic of North Macedonia, his office said.
"The prime minister congratulated Mr Zaev on the successful conclusion of the process to revise the constitution of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia," Tsipras' office said in a statement.
At the start of the parliamentary session, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told deputies the name change would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future", and to joining the North Atlantic alliance.
Several hundred people have protested against the deal in front of parliament over the past three days.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt congratulated the country on its new moniker.
“This marks a major step towards resolving the long-standing Name Issue with Greece, and brings the country closer to a more secure, stable and prosperous future at the heart of the Euro-Atlantic community," he said in a statement.
“Implementation of the Agreement will unlock greater opportunities for Macedonia’s young people and demonstrates what can be achieved with courage, determination and a vision for the future.”
Updated: January 12, 2019 12:35 AM