Parliament in Skopje votes country name change to 'Republic of North Macedonia'

A supporter of the movement boycotting the deal to change the country's name protests in Skopje

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in the capital of Skopje on Saturday that he expects neighboring Greece to be the first country to sign the accession protocol for Macedonia to become NATO's 30th member.

Hundreds of people protested the move in front the parliament over the past number of days.

The name change will only be effective once it is also agreed by the Greek parliament.

Greece, a member of both NATO and the European Union, has long opposed Macedonia's official name, as it has a province called Macedonia in the north of the country.

The constitutional changes mark the finalisation of Macedonia's side of the name agreement with Greece, and mean that the country's name will now become the Republic of North Macedonia for global and domestic use.

Greece already contained a region called Macedonia, which incorporates most of the territories of the eponymous ancient kingdom that was led centuries ago by Alexander the Great.

VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski addressed the rally, accusing Zaev of "bargaining" with lawmakers to secure the two-thirds majority.

The vote is a political triumph for the Social Democratic leader, who analysts say was weakened by the low turnout in the September referendum.

The constitutional change will come into force when President Gyorge Ivanov ratifies it.

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The Greek parliament must now give its approval under a deal signed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Mr Zaev in June.

Now, "we will immediately proceed with the process to renew the parliamentary support" for the government, the prime minister said.

Eighty-one lawmakers voted in favor of the constitutional amendments.

In a press conference that followed his resignation, Kammenos made it clear that he and his party will vote against the government confidence motion, as well as the Macedonia name deal, when it comes up for ratification.

Senior European Union officials, Federika Mogherini and Johahnes Hahn were quickly to express "wholehearted congratulations" on the vote.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the parliament's decision, praising the Macedonian leader's "vision, courage and persistence" in seeking a resolution to the dispute with Greece that would allow it to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

The US ambassador in Skopje, Jess Bailey, commended the government and parliament for their "vision, courage and perseverance" in reaching the deal.

"#NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region", he tweeted.

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