Macedonia becomes North Macedonia after changes in constitution

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Source: REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Macedonian Parliament adopted constitutional changes on Friday paving the way for the country to legalise its new name - North Macedonia - after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev made a deal with a local Albanian party, ending the uncertainty about the parliamentary majority for the move he agreed with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in June.

The Beta news agency reported that Zoran Zaev and Bilaj Kasami, the leader of the opposition Besa party agreed earlier in the day for the party’s two MPs to vote in favour of the constitutional changes which resulted in 81 out of 120 deputies saying yes to four amendments.

The nationalist VMRO DPMNE, the largest opposition party in the Macedonian Parliament, boycotted the session.

Zaev needed the two-thirds majority in favour of the constitutional changes necessary for the new name – the Republic of North Macedonia – to unlock Skopje’s NATO membership process and the start of pre-accession negotiations with the European Union.

Greece had blocked Macedonia in those processes for 27 years, arguing the county’s name showed territorial claims against its northern province of the same name.

Since November 1991, when the country declared independence from former Yugoslav federation, it was referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under which name it became a United Nations member.

In June Greek and Macedonian prime ministers agreed on the new name, but both faced fierce opposition from the nationalists at home.

The European Union described the deal as the most significant political success in the Western Balkans in 2018.