Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
The parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) approved the constitutional changes tabled by the government of Zoran Zaev based on the Prespes Agreement on Friday evening, with 81 votes for and none against.
The four amendments ratified under summary procedures change the country’s name to “Republic of North Macedonia”; update the preamble of the constitution; redefine the state’s role in terms of the diaspora; and establish FYROM’s respect of territorial integrity and national sovereignty of its neighbouring states.
That will lift Athens’ veto on Macedonia’s bids to join Nato and the European Union.
The new name will be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognise the name “Republic of Macedonia” will also have to adopt “North Macedonia”.
Greece and FYROM signed the historic agreement in June 2018, resolving a long-standing issue between the two countries. It needs now to be ratified by the Greek parliament before it comes into effect.
In an earlier announcement on Friday, the government said it had secured the approval of at least 80 deputies of a total of 120, including two deputies of the opposition Albanian party “Besa”.
The government said it had resolved the objections of Besa over the determination of nationality, which will be “Macedonian/Citizens of the Democracy of North Macedonia,” and it clarified for the party how nationality would be translated into the Albanian language for citizens of ethnic Albanian descent.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras congratulated his counterpart FYROM Zoran Zaev for the successful completion of the revision of FYROM’s constitution on the basis of the Prespes Agreement, the Greek PM’s office said on Friday evening.
At the start of the parliamentary session, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told deputies the name change would “open the doors to the future, Macedonia’s European future”, and to joining the North Atlantic alliance.
“A new historical chapter in our statehood has been written this evening,” the Macedonian government said in a statement. “It makes absolutely plausible two of our biggest state interests – membership in Nato and EU.”
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has asked for an early election. “The vote on constitutional amendments that changed the name, identity, history and culture was done against the constitution. It was illegal, violent and done in a criminal way,” its leader, Hristijan Mickoski, told journalists after the vote.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has proven it has “taken ownership” of its destiny and is “making history by opening up the future,” Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov said on Friday, in a tweet celebrating the historic constitutional amendments voted in parliament.
“We have taken ownership of our destiny. We are making history by opening up our future. We have proven that miracles are possible. We demonstrated that we are European, not only geographically, but also in terms of European values. I am proud to be on the right side of history,” Dimitrov said.
Former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who signed the Prespes Agreement in June 2018 with his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov, spoke with the neighbouring country’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Dimitrov to congratulate them on the parliamentary vote that ratified the constitutional revision based on the Prespes Agreement, on Friday.
The vote of the amendments results in a name change for FYROM to “Republic of North Macedonia”, and helps resolve a decades-long outstanding issue between the two countries.
On Twitter, Kotzias, head of the movement “Pratto”, referred to the obstacles and the hopes on the way to the historic agreement and welcomed “North Macedonia”, adding that “history should be a school, not a jail.”
“I spoke with Zoran and Nikola,” he said in his tweet. “We remembered the difficulties, the exhaustion, the tension, the trust and the hopes we experienced working on the Agreement. We envisioned the joint future of the two peoples. North Macedonia, welcome to our lives. History ought to be a school, not a jail.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg conveyed his congratulations to FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after his country’s parliament ratified the four amendments related to the terms of the Prespes Agreement on Friday.
“I congratulate PM @Zoran_Zaev on the parliament’s final vote on the #PrespaAgreement. #NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
The Agreement’s ratification by FYROM opens the way for the country’s NATO membership.
European Union High Commissioner Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn jointly expressed congratulations for the constitutional changes related to the Prespes Agreement that were voted by the parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Friday.
The vote, they said, “is a crucial step in implementing the historic (Prespes) Agreement,” and said the EU “strongly supports this agreement which sets an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole.”
The full text of their joint announcement is as follows:
“We express our wholehearted congratulations on the Parliament’s vote on the constitutional changes today. This is a crucial step in implementing the historic Prespa Agreement. Political leaders and citizens alike have shown their determination to seize this unique and historic opportunity in solving one of the oldest disputes in the region, and decisively move forward on the European Union path. The EU strongly supports this agreement which sets an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole. As we are awaiting the completion of the next steps leading to the full implementation of the Prespa Agreement, the European Union remains firmly committed to continue to fully support and accompany the country towards its common strategic goal of EU integration.”
The United Kingdom “strongly welcomes the vote in Macedonia’s Parliament today in favour of implementing” the Prespes Agreement, the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Friday, calling it “an historic moment.”
In its statement, the UK Foreign Office said, “Today, Macedonia’s Parliament voted in favour of amendments to the country’s constitution to implement the Prespa Agreement. We look forward to the Agreement being ratified by the Greek Parliament. This will end a long-standing dispute between the two countries and open the way for Macedonia to progress towards NATO and EU membership.”
In his message, Hunt added, “The UK strongly welcomes the vote in Macedonia’s Parliament today in favour of implementing the Prespa Agreement. This is an historic moment for Macedonia.” He noted that the vote “marks a major step towards resolving the long-standing Name Issue with Greece, and brings the country closer to a more secure, stable and prosperous future at the heart of the Euro-Atlantic community.”
“Implementation of the Agreement will unlock greater opportunities for Macedonia’s young people and demonstrates what can be achieved with courage, determination and a vision for the future,” Hunt noted.