Greece backs Macedonia's NATO accession

Austria Macedonia

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".

A majority of 153 lawmakers supported the legislation, while 140 voted against.

Macedonias renaming to "The Republic of North Macedonia" was the name issue between Greece and Macedonia, that had kept the Balkan country from joining both the NATO and the European Union (EU), reports Al Jazeera. "I feel we have carried out our patriotic duty", Tsipras added.

Staring down strong domestic opposition from Greeks anxious the Balkan neighbor was appropriating Greek heritage, the government of leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pushed the name change through parliament on January 25.

Greece and Macedonia - independent since 1991 - struck the historic agreement to change the name past year, despite protests from opposition parties, and ratified it in parliament.

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NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg presided over Wednesday's ceremony a NATO's headquarters, where Macedonia was invited to join the pact.

It also exposed old rivalries with Russian Federation, in a region where Moscow jostles for influence with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

The accord over the name angered many Greeks who believed the ex-Yugoslav state was hijacking their history with a name linked to the Greek heritage of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon.

The neighboring state must now formally request all countries to start using the name "Republic of North Macedonia" from now on, he noted. Greece has a northern province called Macedonia.

Greek opposition parties reject the move, arguing that the name deal, which will end a 27-year dispute, concedes too much to FYROM. "Today we vote against the accession protocol, because it seals a national defeat at Prespes", he said.

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