Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name, paving way to European Union membership

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

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

The name change follows an agreement with neighboring Greece, which in turn is bound by the terms of the deal to remove its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and then potentially the European Union.

After a almost 30-minute meeting with Tsipras at the Prime Ministry in Athens, Kammenos told reporters they took part in the government of national unity and pulled Greece from memorandums, but can not resume their cooperation regarding the deal.

But a change of government in Macedonia in 2017 finally led to the deal reached a year ago.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (R) welcomes Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the shore of Lake Prespa near Otesevo. He has repeatedly threatened to pull his lawmakers out of the government, although he has sent mixed signals on whether he will bring down the government in a vote of confidence.

The future of the ruling coalition government remains unclear.

Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party has 145 deputies in the 300-member Greek Parliament, while Kammenos' right-populist Independent Greeks party has seven.

Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami (The River) party to get the agreement approved, while some of ANEL's lawmakers also remain ambivalent to the deal.

Kammenos submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday.

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Macedonian lawmakers were convening later Friday to vote on the amendments, for which a super majority of two-thirds of the 120 members - or 80 votes - is required. He added he had a "frank discussion" with Kammenos, whom he thanked for his government partnership.

"A new historical chapter in our statehood has been written this evening", the Macedonian government said in a statement.

Greece has blocked that path since Macedonia broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 because, it says, the name Macedonia should apply exclusively to its own northern province.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name.

Kammenos, who forged a coalition pact with Tsipras in 2015, has never hidden his hostility to the deal with Skopje.

Macedonia late Friday fulfilled its part of a historic deal that will pave its way to NATO membership and normalize relations with neighboring Greece, after lawmakers approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

Representatives of the conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote.

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