Greece vote settles 27-year Macedonia row

During the voting several hundred name deal opponents protested in front of the parliament building in Athens

The name deal was hammered out by Tsipras with his Macedonian counterpart previous year, secured the parliamentary majority needed to get the accord approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.

In Skopje, opponents of the deal have also taken to the streets in recent months.

"Today we write a new page for the Balkans".

Although Tsipras appears to have secured the support of at least 151 deputies in the 300-seat house to get the deal approved, opinion polls have shown most Greeks oppose the term "Macedonia" being used in any agreement.

The Greek parliament speaker's office says a vote to ratify a deal with neighboring Macedonia to change that country's name to normalize relations and allow it to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been pushed back to Friday.

Both countries have been under pressure to resolve the dispute, as Western nations see the further integration of Balkan countries into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a way of improving the region's stability.

"The name of the country, and, moreover, the identity, culture, and history of its people has been changed under enormous pressure, with numerous breaches of our constitution and respectful laws".

"Both countries have seized this unique opportunity which sets an example of reconciliation for Europe as a whole and will give a further boost to the European perspective of the region", the EU officials said. "Congratulations my friend [Alexis] Tsipras". "Together with our peoples we reached a historic victory".

After a long and thorough diplomatic process, both sides have come to an agreement to the name Republic of North Macedonia or Severna Makedonija, in Macedonian.

Protests have been held in both countries against the agreement - some of them violent - and lawmakers in Greece have reported threats and arson attacks against their homes.

Protesters were planning new rallies for Friday, before the vote takes place around 1230 GMT.

Tsipras survived last week's confidence vote after the leader of his coalition partner, Panos Kammenos, pulled out of the government in protest against the Macedonia accord.

Many Greeks also believe that Macedonia, which voted in a referendum a year ago to change its name to North Macedonia in an effort to please the neighbor, still belongs to Greece.

But in Greece, its neighbour's name continues to fuel controversy in politics and society, ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

Yet opposition parties are fighting against the deal they say is a "national defeat", with the conservative New Democracy party promising to block Macedonia's European Union bid if it wins the election.

Protesters in Athens on Thursday shouted slogans during a demonstration against the agreement, which some Greeks say could lead to territorial claims against Greece.

Smaller groups braved heavy rain on Friday to demonstrate outside the parliament.

FYR Macedonia and Greece call it truce on the 27 year old ongoing name dispute.

"Are you afraid of a state that does not even have two percent of our (military) capability and not even six percent of our economic output?", former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, a signatory of the agreement, asked parliament on Thursday.

Members of the far-right Golden Dawn party shouted "Traitors!" at points during the vote.



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