Macedonian parliament votes to approve name change

Two-thirds of the MPs vote in favour of changing the country's name.

    Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has been leading the bid to change name to 'North Macedonia' [File: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]
    Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has been leading the bid to change name to 'North Macedonia' [File: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]

    The Macedonian parliament has passed constitutional changes to allow the Balkan country to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, as agreed to with Greece.

    A total of 80 deputies in the 120-seat parliament on Friday voted in favour of the name change.

    The move could unblock the country's bids to join NATO and the European Union, long blocked by Greece, which argues that "Macedonia" implied territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name.

    The two countries reached agreement on the name change in June.

    But hurdles remain before the change can be formalised.

    Friday's vote opens the name change procedure, allowing legislators to debate the issue over a period of three months or more, according to the parliament's rulebook.

    The procedure to complete constitutional changes is lengthy and requires several rounds of voting, with Friday's being just the first stage. The procedure should be completed by January the latest.

    Once Macedonia formally changes the constitution, the Greek parliament will also have to vote on the deal.

    Greece's Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who heads a small right-wing party that props up the government in the legislature, has threatened to quit the coalition if the Greek vote goes forward.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency