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The Greek parliament on Friday voted to adopt the Prespa agreement, resolving a 27-year old dispute with Skopje over the country’s name. The agreement approves of Macedonia changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, paving the way for the country’s EU and NATO membership.

Prespa agreement was ratified in parliament after 38 hours of discussion, and the outcome was tight – 153 MPs supported the agreement, while 146 opposed it. It was similarly tight in the Maceodnian parliament earlier in January when it voted on the amendment to the consitutituion as per the agreement – 81 deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favour.

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, said that a “new page” was written in the history of the Balkans.

“Nationalist hatred, disputes and clashes are now replaced by friendship, peace and cooperation,” Tsipras wrote on his Twitter account, adding that new generations in both countries “will be grateful to those members of the parliament who, showing braveness and courage, laid the foundations for a peaceful future, solidarity and coexistence between our peoples.”

According to Tsipras, North Macedonia will be a friendly country and an ally of Greece

After the vote, the Greek government in Athens is expected to inform NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the proceedings have been completed. Then, the Alliance is expected to prepare a protocol for Macedonia’s accession – it is anticipated that Macedonian politicians will be invited to sign it at the beginning of February. Immediately afterwards, Greece is expected to ratify the invitation for Macedonia’s membership in NATO, after which the constitutional changes adopted by the Macedonian parliament come into force. It is then that Macedonia becomes Republic of North Macedonia and an agreement with Greece is in force.

Many Greeks, however, believe that Tsipras gave too many concessions to the Macedonians by allowing it to retain the name shared by the Greek province with the rich past. On the other hand, Macedonian opposition parties and nationalists believe that changing the country’s name and national symbols is a price too high to pay for Nato membership.

Extra efforts will be needed for countries to conserve their newly-found cooperation

Indeed, Jure Stojan, partner at ISR, says that “had this name change happened ten years ago, it would have been an unmitigated success.”

But, Stojan adds, “given the highly volatile geopolitics of the times, the most we can realistically say is that it is an important natural experiment.

 

“Also in both countries, opposition parties have already signaled they would seek to overturn the agreement, or at least press the other country for extra concessions.Cross-border relationships had been poisoned so extra efforts will be needed if North Macedonia and Greece are to conserve their newly-found co-operation, let alone deepen it.”
Jure Stojan, partner at ISR
“Namely, is it still possible for progressive policies to be enacted by legislative fiat, on wafer-thin majorities, in spite of strong popular opposition? The sad fact of the matter is that in both countries, roughly speaking, every other citizen opposes the deal on nationalistic grounds."
Jure Stojan, partner at ISR
Adriatic Journal

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