Following a tumultuous session in Parliament, Greek MPs on Friday approved the Prespes deal which will rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia “North Macedonia,” ending a decades-long dispute between the two countries.
The contentious deal passed into law – with 153 votes in favor, 146 against and one present – following several days of vehement debate in the House and protests in the streets.
The next step will be the ratification of a so-called accession protocol for FYROM to be able to join NATO under the new name, largely a formality as the deal ratified in the House obliges Greece not to block potential accession bids by its neighbor.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the deal’s ratification as “historic,” and referred to the Balkan country as North Macedonia. “It will be a friend and an ally of Greece in its efforts for security, stability and mutual development in the region,” Tsipras said of Greece’s Balkan neighbor.
Speaking later on Friday, at an Economist conference in Athens, conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated his view that the deal will create more problems for Greece than it solves.
The win, which came on the anniversary of leftist SYRIZA’s rise to power four years ago, had been widely anticipated as most MPs had made their voting intentions known several days earlier.
In addition to SYRIZA’s 145 MPs, Tsipras garnered the support of independents Elena Kountoura, Katerina Papacosta, both ministers, and Thanasis Papachristopoulos of former junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), centrist Potami MPs Stavros Theodorakis, Spyros Lykoudis and Giorgos Mavrotas, as well as Spyros Danellis, a former Potami MP who is now independent, and Thanasis Theocharopoulos, formerly with the centrist Movement for Change.
The approval of the Prespes deal in Parliament prompted congratulations from European, US and NATO officials who had pressed for a resolution to the long-standing row.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the vote “an important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the whole region,” while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed a “historic opportunity to advance stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region” and congratulated political leaders for showing “vision, courage, and persistence in their pursuit of a solution to the name dispute.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the vote had “written a new page of our common EU future,” while United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, a veteran mediator in the dispute, spoke of a “visionary step,” adding that the vote “ushers in a new era for the consolidation of peace and security in the Balkans.”