Greece, Macedonia Sign Historic Agreement On Name

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia signed the historic accord, with Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev in attendance, joined by officials from the United Nations and the European Union (EU), who have welcomed the move.

Political opponents had accused Mr Tsipras of making too many concessions over the deal to rename the former Yugoslav republic North Macedonia, due to be signed on Sunday.

Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev settled on a deal Tuesday that would rename Greece's northern neighbour North Macedonia, while Athens would drop its objections to the country joining NATO and the European Union.

The opposition party said the deal is harmful for Greek interests.

Before the vote, protesters gathered for the second day in a row outside the House to oppose the deal.

"Hatred toward the country of another is not patriotism", Tsipras said during his speech in parliament.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world's longest - and arguably most arcane - diplomatic disputes, which began 27 years ago with Macedonia's declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries.

The deal is tentatively set to be signed by the two countries' foreign ministers Sunday in the Prespa Lakes region on the border. "I told my family this year I don't need any gifts because two prime ministers are going to give me a big gift". Protests are being planned nearby on both sides of the border.

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"Today you are all mortgaging the future of the country", said conservative New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who brought the no-confidence motion.

Critics of the deal in Greece say the name change could imply territorial claims on the Greek province and usurp ancient Greek culture and civilization. "We will defend Macedonia's name and pride", said Petre Filipovski, 40.

The President of Macedonia has said he will not endorse the pact, while in Greece, Mr Tsipras's right-wing coalition partners have said their politicians will reject it when it is brought for ratification.

Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", but more than 120 countries including Russian Federation and the United States have recognized the Balkan country under the name of "Republic of Macedonia". "We cannot change the past, we could the future". "We put an end to the long-standing differences which have put up a wall that made friendly relations hard between neighbours", Zaev said.

The ratification process will take several months.

In Greece, the deal only faces ratification in parliament once Macedonia has completed its part of the process.

Skopje is expected to ratify the agreement and then seek voters' approval in a referendum in September, with Greece to put the deal to a vote in parliament soon after.

The country's President, Gjorge Ivanov, has further complicated matters with his refusal to sign the agreement, the BBC has reported.


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