How a name change might get Macedonia into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

14 January, 2019, 16:16 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a confidence vote scheduled for Wednesday

In reaction, Greece's Defence Minister Panos Kammenos resigned early January 13 and a vote of confidence in the remaining SYRIZA government is expected to be announced shortly. Greece will hold parliamentary elections in October.

The survival of Tsipras, who led Greece through high-drama bailout standoffs and forged an unlikely bond with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hinges on his Independent Greeks coalition ally, whose seven seats in the 300-member parliament give it the balance of power.

On Friday, 81 of 120 Macedonian MPs voted in favour of the name change, securing the required 2/3rds majority. Kammenos has vowed that he would also pull six other ministers from his party out of the government. As a result the Greek government - a sketchy coalition at best - has gone into a tailspin.

Kammenos said that any deal including "Macedonia" in the name of the Balkan state to Greece's north was unacceptable as the name was irrevocably tied to Greek civilization and culture.

Kammenos has long opposed the accord with neighboring Macedonia signed by their governments a year ago. Tsipras has consistently rejected proposals made earlier this year by Kammenos and others for a Greek referendum on the deal, as was held in Macedonia/FYROM, or for the need for an enhanced majority of 180 MPs for passage.

Tsipras said he had a "frank discussion" with Kammenos, whom he thanked for his government partnership, and announced that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will become the country's new defence minister. Neither one has stated their position on the confidence motion but Kokkalis has said he will vote against the Macedonian name change.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

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Kommersant estimates that the adoption of constitutional changes can have another outcome, important not only for that Balkan state, adding that "in the opinion of regional experts, this can influence the granting of autocephaly to the Macedonian Orthodox Church".

In the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told a press conference Sunday that he has been "assured" by a Greek government official that Athens remains "strongly committed" to completing its part of the name change deal.

Zaev said on January 12 that the lawmakers had "made history", adding: "I know how hard that was".

Athens has promised to lift its veto on Skopje's attempts to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union if Macedonia changes its name.

Syriza is trailing between eight and 12 points behind the main conservative New Democracy party, which also opposed the deal with Macedonia, in pre-election polls.

For many Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire.

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