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Greek parliament debates no-confidence motion after Macedonia deal

16 June 2018

Much of the criticism in Greece has focused on the government's acceptance that the neighbouring country's language and ethnicity will be called "Macedonian".

A 20-article document is to be signed by the foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia stating that Macedonia's constitution must be revised within the year for the deal to go ahead.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev of Macedonia agreed Tuesday to rename the latter's country North Macedonia, ending a disagreement that has prevented it from joining worldwide institutions such as NATO.

Greece has long demanded its northern neighbour change its name, saying the term "Macedonia" implies territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, and usurps ancient Greek heritage and history.

The foreign ministers of Macedonia and Greece plan to sign the deal this weekend.

Greek opponents of the deal are planning a rally in Athens on Friday.

The Macedonian president has said he would try to block the deal, and in Greece, the opposition initiated a censure motion against the government, a first since Tsipras came to power in 2015.

According to what has been released, the citizens of the newly named country will be called "Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia".

Tsipras' coalition ally, the Independent Greeks, have said publicly they would not support the accord reached with Skopje but would not topple the government, either. Under the deal reached between the two countries' prime ministers Tuesday, Macedonia will be renamed Republic of North Macedonia.

But Tsipras said he expects Greek lawmakers to easily approve the agreement. In the years that followed, Macedonia began to backslide on democratic reforms, losing its hopes for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Government sources rejected the opposition's claims that it negotiated in secret with Skopje, ignoring the will of the Greek people, in order to make detrimental concessions to the neighboring country.

In Macedonia's capital, Skopje, opponents of the name-change protested peacefully outside parliament for a second evening. Macedonia's friendship treaty with Bulgaria has contributed to this effort since its finalisation in January 2018, with bilateral trade between the countries rising at an annualised rate of 11 percent in the following six months. A breakthrough was reached after a change of government in Macedonia, with Zaev taking over a year ago following a decade of rule by conservative Nikola Gruevski.

The agreement between the Greek prime minister and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, was meant to solve a decades-old dispute between the two countries over Macedonia's name.

In Athens, Tsipras faced a direct challenge to his left-led coalition government's survival after main opposition New Democracy party head Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would submit a motion later Thursday for a no-confidence vote.

Greek parliament debates no-confidence motion after Macedonia deal