Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia

Emerging reports suggest that Greek defence minister, Panos Kammenos has resigned ahead of Macedonia name vote.

At the start of the parliamentary session, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers the name change would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future". "I could have found ad hoc majorities for each issue, but.I do not play it safe", he added.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world's longest diplomatic disputes, which began almost three decades ago with Macedonia's declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries. Alexander the Great still represents a source of pride for many Greeks today, while his legacy has also been taken up as a central part of Macedonia's national identity.

The vote followed intense negotiations between Zaev's center-left coalition and some opposition lawmakers, who had initially agreed to back the agreement but raised last-minute objections.

"We expect that this historic vote will clear the way for the opening of accession negotiations with Skopje in June 2019, as decided by the European Union governments during the June summit past year".

Notably the outcome was enabled thanks to four MPs who received an amnesty for their alleged roles in the violent storming of parliament in April 2017.

VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote and President Gjorge Ivanov, their ally, has refused to sign off on the deal. He said that he believes he can find the required six votes.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has said he wants to bring the deal - which has brought his coalition government to the brink of breakup - to parliament in coming weeks.

Acknowledging the end of the dispute between Greece and Macedonia, High representative of the European Union Federica Mogherini, was quoted as saying in a statement, "Political leaders and citizens alike have shown their determination to seize this unique and historic opportunity in solving one of the oldest disputes in the region".

A motion of confidence submitted by the government can, in theory, be passed with as few as 120 votes in the 300-member Parliament, if enough lawmakers abstain.

Even if he loses the confidence vote, the timing of any new election is unclear given that Tsipras has pledged that Greece won't return to the polls until the government completes a series of measures to stabilize the economy, including constitutional reform, new legislation to protect homeowners and an increase in the minimum wage.

Tsipras added that a separate vote on a protocol to enable Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would be held "not long afterwards". It boosts the chances that the Greek parliament will ratify the deal this month, despite vocal opposition from a large segment of the Greek public and opposition parties.

Vanessa Coleman