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Macedonian Parliament approves new name for country requested by Greece: NPR



People gather outside Parliament's building in Macedonia to protest against the country's name change to northern Macedonia.

Boris Grdanoski / AP


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Boris Grdanoski / AP

People gather outside the parliament building in Macedonia to protest against the country's name change to northern Macedonia.

Boris Grdanoski / AP

Macedonia's parliament has agreed to change the country's name to northern Macedonia, to appeal to Greece and to bring the country one step closer to NATO membership.

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

Eighty of the 120 legislators in the Macedonian Parliament voted on Friday to approve a constitutional change to change the country's name, NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens. The remaining opposition laws remained in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.

The change will not be official until the Greek Parliament approves it.

] Opponents of the agreement protested outside the Macedonian parliament on Friday and responded to the vote with talks of "traitors", AP reports. Conservative opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski told reporters that the vote was "a treason act".

Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev agreed to renounce the country in a compromise with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipr in June. The proposed change of name disappeared protests from nationalists in both countries – and a referendum in Macedonia that failed to meet the breakdown requirement.

Greece and Macedonia have been locked in a dispute over the name dated in 1991 during the dissolution of Yugoslavia, when the Republic of Macedonia broke away.

Greece already contained a region called Macedonia, which contains most of the territories of the eponymous ancient kingdom which was brought centuries ago by Alexander the Great. Both Greece and its northern neighbor consider Alexander, and the name, integral parts of their identity, reports Kakissis.

Former Greek governments have also argued that the small Republic of Macedonia can use the name to make territorial claims in the province.

The inequality has protested on both sides of the territorial border and gave rise to real consequences: Greece has blocked Macedonia's entry into both NATO and the European Union. Greece had previously referred to Macedonia as Skopje, after its capital, or Fyrom, an acronym for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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

A referendum in Macedonia to change the name last September won overwhelming support but failed to demand 50 percent suspension to confirm the change, after demonstrators ran for a boycott.

"It is humiliating that I should not call myself a Macedonian, the only name I have for myself and for my ancestors and for my children just because of a political affair and diplomatic agreement" told a protest for the time NPR.


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