Greece backs Macedonia's NATO accession, settles dispute - 2/8/2019 2:38:56 PM

Erika Holt
February 11, 2019

The vote came after the former Yugoslav republic agreed with Greece previous year to change its name to North Macedonia and following ratification of the deal by the countries' parliaments.

Greece's legislature, which has 300 members, saw the vote end with 153 in favour and 140 against.

The ratification was part of a deal signed in June to change Macedonia's name to the Republic of North Macedonia, and lift Greek objections to its European Union and NATO membership bids. "I feel we have carried out our patriotic duty". "We did what is right", Tsipras told parliament during a debate on Friday.

The main catalyst for the change was FYROM's wish to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and, eventually, the European Union, and western countries' desire to diminish Russian influence in the region.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov on February 6 signed a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession agreement, a key step toward Skopje's becoming the military alliance's 30th member.

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It also exposed old rivalries with Russian Federation, in a region where Moscow competes for influence with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for Greeks.

The two countries remained deadlocked over Macedonia's name for the duration of the younger country's existence.

During the debate, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated the ND's decision not to ratify the protocol for the accession of the neighbouring country into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as he believes that it would be the "final act in a damaging agreement". Greece has a northern province called Macedonia.

"This is the final act of a nationally damaging deed", he said.

The NATO ratification process typically takes about a year, and the United States has said it expects North Macedonia to formally join the alliance in 2020.

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