Greek Parliament backs Macedonia name change

After much debate, and fears that the initiative would be lost, the Greek Parliament has voted narrowly to approve the name change for its northern neighbour. And so the Republic of North Macedonia will come into being and have access to both NATO and the EU.

This process started last summer with an agreement between Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev of Macedonia and Alexis Tsiparas of Greece. A referendum in Macedonia passed with a massive majority, but a boycott by opponents meant the turnout did not pass the threshold set for automatic acceptance.

Nevertheless, the Macedonian parliament passed the measure and the only hurdle remaining was a similar vote in the Greek Parliament. Tsiparas’ coalition partners left the government over the issue and around 60% of Greeks are said by opinion polls to be opposed to the name. They believe that it impinges on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and implies territorial ambitions.

Greece had been blocking Macedonia’s applications to join NATO and the EU over the issue, and part of the agreement is that these vetoes will be dropped.

The only question that remains is how much damage this will do to Tisparas as he faces a general election later this year.