Macedonia as we know it may not be around for much longer

IF YOU had this country on your travel bucket list, you might need to jump in and change it.

The nation known as Macedonia might soon be called something else, after a historic agreement with neighbouring Greece to end a decades-long dispute.

Macedonia’s parliament has voted to amend the constitution to allow the Baltic nation to change its name.

Parliament voted 80-39 in favour of the proposal, which is key to accepting a deal with Greece that strives to unravel the 27-year dispute between the two countries.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed if Macedonia was renamed North Macedonia, Greece would stop blocking Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union and NATO.

The decision comes after a week-long debate in Skopje. The amendment process will formally start within the next two weeks.

“Today is a historic day for the country,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said.

“Macedonia will be part of the European family our dreams and visions for better life in a better country will be fulfilled.”

Amendments to the constitution incorporating the name change will be drafted, but another vote will be required to ensure the changes.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev secured the two-thirds supermajority to kickstart the process of changing Macedonia’s name. Picture: Robert Atanasovski / AFP.Source:AFP

Parliament debated the changes to the constitution over a week before voting. Picture: Boris Grdanoski / AP.Source:AP

Mr Tsipras also celebrated the result of the historic vote.

“Today is a historic and symbolic day … it is a day of joy which proves the dynamic role Greece plays (as) a factor in the stabilisation of the Balkans and southeastern Europe,” he said.

He also congratulated Mr Zaev on Twitter.

Congratulations my friend @Zoran_Zaev ! Tonight’s vote is a big step towards our common success. A very important step to a peaceful and prosperous future for our people!

Mr Zaev struggled to win over conservative opposition members, while conservative voters boycotted the referendum last month, which only saw a 40 per cent turnout.

By changing the Baltic nation’s name to North Macedonia, Greece’s veto would be lifted — allowing the country to join NATO and the European Union.

The outcome and prospect of the country joining NATO and the EU has been welcomed by officials.

NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg tweeted in support of the amendments.

“It’s up to the government & political leaders to complete national procedures on the name agreement & seize this historic opportunity to bring the country into #NATO,” Mr Stoltenberg tweeted.

I welcome the vote by parliament in #Skopje on the proposed constitutional changes. It’s up to the government & political leaders to complete national procedures on the name agreement & seize this historic opportunity to bring the country into #NATO.

The EU’s Vice President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn released a statement making the EU’s support for the changes plain.

“The European Union strongly supports the historic agreement signed by Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras in June. It took political courage, leadership and responsibility to resolve one of the oldest disputes in the region. This determination was confirmed with the vote today,” the statement said.

Major changes are head for the Baltic nation of Macedonia.Source:istock

“This is a truly unique opportunity for decisively moving the country forward on its European Union path as well as for reconciliation in the region. The European Union will continue to fully support and accompany the country, all its citizens and its institutions.”

Greece has disputed the name “Macedonia” since the country declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece argued encroachment on its own province called Macedonia, the heart of Alexander the Great’s ancient kingdom.

Earlier in the year, 100,000 people gathered in Athens chanting “Macedonia belongs to Greece!” while protests even erupted in Australia.

With wires

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