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Macedonia can join NATO and EU after end to name dispute

Macedonia may now be free to pursue NATO and EU membership after its parliament approved a change of the country’s name.

The small Balkan state had found its path to membership blocked by Greece for decades, due to a dispute over the name.

Greece has a province also called Macedonia.

But on Friday Macedonia’s parliament approved the proposed new name of Republic Of North Macedonia, despite a referendum on the matter failing to reach the minimum participation threshold of 50%.

The referendum had been on the deal reached by the leaders of Greece and Macedonia in June, which sparked protests by thousands of Greeks.

The dispute has lasted for 27 years with talks and protests
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The dispute over the name has lasted for decades

Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras said: “Today is a symbolic and historic day after the decision at the [Macedonian capital] Skopje’s parliament which opens the way for the implementation of the accord.”

He added that implementation of the accord would allow the new Republic Of North Macedonia to join international organisations, referring to the EU and NATO.

The move was also welcomed by NATO, the EU and the US as another step forward in the decades-long row.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said: “It’s up to the government and political leaders to complete national procedures on the name agreement & seize this historic opportunity to bring the country into NATO.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the ceremony
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Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras

The EU’s diplomatic head, Federica Mogherini, said: “We now expect the national procedures for the implementation of the agreement to continue without any delays, towards the adoption of the constitutional changes.

“This is a truly unique opportunity for decisively moving the country forward on its European Union path as well as for reconciliation in the region.

“The European Union will continue to fully support and accompany the country, all its citizens and its institutions.”

US state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called Macedonia’s move a “historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region”.

Macedonia’s parliament will need to vote again once the new name is added into the country’s constitution.

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