ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s parliament on Friday ratified a landmark accord that changes the name of neighbouring Macedonia, ending a decades-old dispute and opening the way for the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the European Union and NATO.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who hammered out the deal with his Macedonian counterpart last year, secured the parliamentary majority needed to get the accord approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.
“After one year of negotiations, discussions and exhaustive dialogue, we are reaching the end of a tough and painful process,” Tsipras told parliament during a heated debate on Thursday night, calling on lawmakers to approve the accord.
Macedonia has already ratified the deal.
The settlement seeks to end a 28-year old row between Athens and Skopje over the use of the term “Macedonia” by renaming the tiny Balkan state “Republic of North Macedonia” to differentiate it from Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.
Many Greeks fear the agreement could lead to territorial claims against Greece and say it constitutes an appropriation of their country’s ancient cultural heritage. Macedonia was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.
Protests against the deal have at times turned violent this week, and on Thursday evening police fired teargas to disperse crowds outside parliament. Smaller groups of people braved heavy rain on Friday to demonstrate outside the parliament.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas; Editing by Gareth Jones)