Greek parliament delays vote on Macedonia name change

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A vote in the Greek parliament on the approval of the name-change of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to North Macedonia has been delayed following heated debates.

The ratification of the new name was expected to take place on Thursday, but Greek parliamentary speaker Nikos Voutsis said it has been postponed until Friday.

“There is an unprecedented high number of MPs who want to speak,” Voutsis said, adding the vote is now scheduled to take place on Friday at 1230GMT.

According to Voutsis, close to 230 MPs wanted to have their say before the vote would take place.

Most are given six minutes to speak, a rule which has been routinely broken in the highly charged session which opened on Wednesday. 

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The change in name would put to rest a 27-year dispute over Macedonia name after ratifiying the Prespes Agreement reached last June between the two countries.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seems to have secured the support of at least 151 deputies in the 300-seat house to get the deal approved, but opinion polls have shown most Greeks oppose the term “Macedonia” being used in any agreement.

The Greek population fears the use of the word Macedonia could lead to territorial claims over Greece’s largest northern province of Macedonia and an appropriation of Greek cultural heritage, allegations which Macedonia has denied. 

Police in Athens were on hand for more protests on Thursday evening and demonstrators took to the streets and the ancient Acropolis.

About 1,500 police officers took up positions around Athens ahead of several planned demonstrations.

“We are going to win, we are going win this battle to keep our morality because this is a fight, we are currently fighting and we will defeat them no matter what they vote inside,” said Giannis Orfanos, a protester.

Greece is bound by terms of the deal to stop blocking Macedonia from NATO and other international groups and to allow it to start European Union accession talks as part of the deal.

“I’m here to protest against that agreement they are debating inside. It’s very simple: they are disregarding our will, our history, our voices and we have come to protest peacefully,” said Andonis Phiamegos, another protester.

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On Sunday, tens of thousands rallied against the deal in Athens and members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) unfurled banners on the walls of Acropolis.

The accord was ratified by Macedonia’s parliament earlier this month, when 81 MPs voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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