After two days of heated debate, Greece’s Parliament voted by a slim margin on the evening of February 8 to approve the Nato accession protocol of the former Yugoslav republic to be known as the “Republic of North Macedonia”.
Greece’s legislature, which has 300 members, saw the vote end with 153 in favour and 140 against. The vote was carried with the support of 145 votes from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party and six independent MPs.
Opposition to approval came from Tsipras’s estranged former coalition partner, the Independent Greeks (ANEL), with Panos Kammenos lashing out at the Prime Minister as a “cold assassin”, and from opposition New Democracy, with Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying that he reserved the right – should his party be in government – to block the former Yugoslav republic’s accession to the European Union.
The February 8 vote in the legislature in Athens was a major step in the dramatic developments between Athens and Skopje in the past two years.
Tsipras and his counterpart from Skopje, Zoran Zaev, achieved the Prespa Agreement, intended to bring to an end the decades-long dispute over the use of the name “Republic of Macedonia” by the former Yugoslav republic. This name dispute previously had led to Greece – objecting to what it saw as potential territorial claims by Skopje, amid an emotional bilateral political contretemps – blocking its neighbour’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
The vote in Athens came two days after, at a ceremony in Brussels, current Nato member states’ ambassadors signed the accession protocol of the country that when the Prespa Agreement comes into full effect will be known as the Republic of North Macedonia.
Once all Nato member states have ratified the accession protocol, the Republic of North Macedonia will be a member of the Alliance.
(Photo of the Greek Parliament in Athens: SiaKou96, via Wikimedia Commons)