Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Mitsotakis: rejecting vote of no confidence is backing Macedonia deal

Mitsotakis: rejecting vote of no confidence is backing Macedonia deal

Greece and Macedonia will sign an accord on Sunday to change the name of the former Yugoslav republic to the "Republic of North Macedonia", the Greek government said on Friday, though there is mounting opposition in both countries to the plan.

The Macedonian delegation, led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, arrived from Macedonia by boat across Lake Prespa.

The agreement "brings us a friend that many said was an irreconcilable enemy".

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. "I told my family this year I don't need any gifts because two prime ministers are going to give me a big gift", said Nimetz, who turned 79.

But to Macedonians, who have espoused this identity since the days of Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito, the notion of revising their name and constitution is anathema.

That attempt came a day after an MP from the far-right Golden Dawn party delivered a fierce rant urging the army to overthrow Tsipras.

Greece had been in dispute with Macedonia since 1991 over the former Yugoslav republic's name, arguing it could imply territorial claims over the Greek province of Macedonia and an appropriation of ancient Greek culture and civilization.

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In tandem with the signing ceremony, Macedonia's main opposition VMRO DPMNE party planned a protest march in the southern town of Bitola.

They argue that by officially recognizing a Macedonian language and nationality, it is nearly certain that the country will be called Macedonia by the broader world, instead of North Macedonia.

For the authorities in both countries the agreement is a triumph as it will put an end to the long dispute, while for Macedonia it will pave the way for Euro-Atlantic integration as Greece have been blocking its membership of the European Union and Nato due to the unresolved issue.

The Macedonian parliament is scheduled to start debating the agreement next week, amid concern President Gjorge Ivanov will exercise a one-time veto option to block the deal that the nationalist opposition has called a "capitulation".

The protesters plan to remain outside parliament until the censure vote, while another demonstration will be held on the border on Sunday. Zaev has said he will put the deal to a referendum in the fall.

"Ultimately they are for sale", the 2016 Olympics 25-metre pistol gold victor said in an Instagram posting with the hashtag "betrayal", apparently referring to the name and identity of Macedonia. "It means a lot, for us it is a huge thing", says Bosko Dimovski, a 60-year-old from Dolno Dupeni, the first village on the Macedonian side of the border. Under the deal, the nationality will be "Macedonian/citizen of North Macedonia" and the name of the language will remain "Macedonian" as well.

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