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Mitsotakis: Rejecting vote of no confidence is backing Macedonia deal

TAGS: Politics

A Greek opposition leader urged lawmakers on Saturday to support his no-confidence vote against the government over a deal to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter's name. 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's left-led coalition government is expected to survive the vote, set for later Saturday. 

His government controls 154 of parliament's 300 seats, and the nationalist party that is a junior coalition partner says it will reject the motion despite vehemently opposing the name deal that Tsipras reached with his FYROM counterpart. 

"Today you are all mortgaging the future of the country," conservative New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who brought the no-confidence motion, told parliament. “A vote against the vote of no confidence is a vote in favor of the Tsipras-Zaev agreement tomorrow,“ referring to the Macedonia name deal.  

“I want all Greeks to understand the theater of hypocrisy that has been staged,” he said.

“They say they will not ratify the deal when it comes to parliament but they passionately support the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister," he said, referring to the junior coalition partner. 

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the Independent Greeks party, the junior party in the government, stressed that Saturday's vote was not on the Macedonia name deal. He promised that his party would vote against the agreement itself when it is brought to parliament. 

"Today we are not voting on the deal," he said. 

Tsipras and FYROM's Zoran Zaev settled on a deal Tuesday that would rename Greece's northern neighbor North Macedonia, while Athens would drop its objections to the country joining NATO and the European Union. 

The agreement aimed to end a bitter dispute that has roiled the two countries' relations since shortly after the small country declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece argued that the name "Macedonia" implied territorial claims on its province of the same name, which is the birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, and usurped its ancient Greek heritage and history.

But hardliners in both countries are furious at the deal, which they consider concedes too much to the other side.  

Thousands of protesters waving Greek flags gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of parliament during Saturday's debate, chanting anti-government slogans. Minor scuffles broke out. 

The crowd was a far cry from the more than 100,000 people who turned out in the capital months ago to protest any compromises over FYROM's new name. 

The deal is tentatively set to be signed by the two countries' foreign ministers Sunday in the Prespa Lakes region on the border. The ratification process will take several months. 

In FYROM, the agreement must clear the hurdles of parliamentary ratification, a referendum in September and a constitutional amendment.

Opponents include the conservative opposition party and the country's president Gjorge Ivanov, who has said he will not sign off on the agreement. Zaev has said he will put the deal to a referendum in the fall. 

In Greece, the deal only faces ratification in parliament once FYROM has completed its part of the process. 

However, the right-wing Independent Greeks party opposes the deal and has said it will not support the agreement when it comes up for ratification in parliament. That would leave Tsipras dependent on opposition parties to pass the measure. 

The three-day parliamentary debate has been acrimonious at times, with Friday's session disrupted by an extreme right-wing lawmaker calling on the country's military to arrest top officials for backing the deal. 

The lawmaker, from the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party, was evicted from the debate and expelled from his party. Police are seeking to arrest him after judicial officials charged him with committing preparatory acts for high treason. 

[AP/Kathimerini] 

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