Here's Why Politicians In Macedonia Just Voted To Change The Country's Name

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski

He secured the required two-thirds parliamentary majority to push the constitutional change through.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers the deal was a "tough" but necessary decision for his country.

Macedonian lawmakers voted through the agreement late on Friday and it now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect.

Macedonia's parliament has approved changing the country's name to North Macedonia, appeasing Greece and bringing the country one step closer to membership in NATO.

Macedonian approval of the name change does not end the issue though.

The disagreement has sparked protests on both sides of the territorial boundary and produced real consequences: Greece has blocked Macedonia's entry into both North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Zaev agreed on the name change with Greek counterpart and fellow leftist Alexis Tsipras in June.

The change is the result of a dispute between Macedonia and Greece over history and national identity that has lasted 27 years.

In the latter capacity, he brokered a so-called interim deal whereby Greece dropped its embargo on Macedonia in exchange for the latter's modifying its flag, which included a symbol found in the grave of Philip II, ruler of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great.

Officials of the main opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who refused to take part in the parliamentary debate, denounced the name change as treason.

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristjan Mickoski on Friday also urged Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to call an early election this spring.

The order for a preliminary investigation came after two Greek news websites reported that lawmakers had received threatening text messages to vote against the deal, the source 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, after the vote.

Further complicating matters, Greek coalition partner Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, the leader of a smaller party, opposes the deal and has threatened to resign. "We also expect negotiations on joining the European Union to start", Zaev said.

"We look forward to welcoming the Republic of North Macedonia as a 30th member of NATO and to continue our strong partnership with you in promoting stability and prosperity here and throughout the region", he added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support of the agreement on Friday, calling it "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".

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