Greece backs Macedonia's NATO bid, completing name deal
- Author: Joey Payne Feb 11, 2019,
Feb 11, 2019, 0:24
"I would like to again welcome North Macedonia, a country that is friendly toward Greece", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Greek lawmakers on February 8 shortly before they voted on North Macedonia's bid to join NATO.
Under the deal, Macedonia will be renamed "the Republic of North Macedonia" and Greece will drop objections to the country joining the European Union and NATO.
The ratification by the Greek MPs of the protocol signed by permanent representatives of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states earlier this week at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, opens the way for Greece's northern neighbour to start using its new name.
NATO members signed the accord with Macedonia this week, days after the Greek parliament endorsed an agreement between Athens and Skopje that changes Macedonia's name to North Macedonia.
Western countries strongly backed the deal between Greece and Macedonia, after the country's bid to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had been shelved for a decade and amid European concerns over Russia's vocal opposition to the alliance's expansion further into the Balkans.
"I feel we did our patriotic duty". It says the alliance is undermining security in the region by taking in Balkan members.
One lawmaker described the pact as "worth spitting at", another that Greece was "humiliated".
Most Greeks were against any agreement that used the term "Macedonia" in the new name, due to the province in northern Greece called Macedonia, which is the birthplace of Alexander the Great. This referred to the resignation of a junior partner from the governing coalition in January over the accord, which left the governing Syriza party short of an absolute majority in parliament. "Today we vote against the accession protocol, because it seals a national defeat at Prespes", he said.
After all NATO members approve the protocol - a process expected to take a year - North Macedonia will become an official member of the alliance.