by Aggelos Skordas
The Parliament of FYROM on Wednesday, ratified the agreement reached between Athens and Skopje and signed on Sunday in Prespes over the longstanding naming dispute. Local MPs approved the bill that renames the Balkan country to “North Macedonia” with 69 votes in the 120-seat Parliament led by the Social Democrat Party of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
On the contrary, 51 opposition MPs have boycotted the vote while nationalist President Gjorge Ivanov also opposes the deal. His party VMRO-DPMNE has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the accord and mobilised its supporters in demonstrations against the country’s new name and the constitution amendment, a prerequisite for the deal.
The agreement, signed on Sunday between Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov and overseen by Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, must now be signed by FYROMS’s President and the Greek Parliament. Once the deal is approved by both countries, FYROM will hold a referendum on renaming the ex-Yugoslav republic, most likely by the end of September or early October. Under the country’s current constitution Ivanov can return the agreement to the Parliament for reconsideration but not veto it indefinitely.
Addressing the Parliament, Zaev noted that the agreement signals the end of the uncertainty for the country, as it is a decent and acceptable solution for both sides: “With this solution, we have not only gained another friend and strategic partner […] we have (also) opened the gates to NATO and the European Union.”
The name agreement paves the way for FYROM to join both the European Union and NATO, after years of isolation due to the open issue, which led Greece to veto its efforts to enter accession talks.
Greek opposition has firmly criticised the deal, arguing that it does not remove irredentist claims on behalf of FYROM and might imply territorial claims on the Greek northern province of Macedonia. Right wing junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) also oppose the agreement.