Bulgaria, EU, Tsipras welcome vote by parliament in Skopje on constitutional name change

Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has welcomed the vote by the legislature in Skopje to initiate the process of amending the constitution to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name to “Republic of North Macedonia”, implementing the Prespa agreement with Greece.

The decision by the Parliament in Skopje “opens the process of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the country,” Zaharieva said in a statement soon after the 80-39 vote.

Securing the eighty votes meant that those in favour of the move had secured the minimum two-thirds majority in the 120-seat legislature to proceed.

Zaharieva said: “We believe that this is the right and only responsible solution that gives a chance for prosperity to all citizens in the region”.

She congratulated all members of the neighbouring country’s Parliament who had given their vote “in favour of our common future in Nato and the EU”.

“We will continue to be the sincerest and close friend in this process,” Zaharieva said.

In a message on Twitter soon after the outcome of the vote in the legislature, European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said: “A great day for #democracy in #Skopje ! I congratulate all those who decided to walk on along the #EU path. I expect that the free choice of all MPs is fully respected, especially of those who crossed the aisle tonight. We need statesmanship, not party-games”.

In a more formal joint statement, Hahn and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the legislature had taken a very important step towards the implementation of the Prespa agreement through the vote launching the constitutional changes procedure.

“We now expect the national procedures for the implementation of the agreement to continue without any delays, towards the adoption of the constitutional changes.”

Mogherini and Hahn said that 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.

“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,” the joint statement said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in a Twitter message, said: “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!”

(Photo of Zaharieva: mfa.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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