Greek parliament approves protocol for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation


Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech during a parliament session in Athens, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

Greek lawmakers on Friday approved Macedonia's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession bid, putting the final touches on a historic deal to end a 27-year name row between the two countries. In a 153-140 vote, Greek lawmakers backed the protocol that now must be approved by other members.

The ratification was part of a deal signed in June to change Macedonia's name to the Republic of North Macedonia, and lift Greek objections to its European Union and NATO membership bids. "I feel we have carried out our patriotic duty", Tsipras said.

Under NATO alliance rules, Macedonian membership now has to be approved by each member state, giving Greek lawmakers the opportunity for another round of verbal jousting over the controversy. Greece has a northern province called Macedonia.

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The former Yugoslav republic will now be able to formally change its name to North Macedonia, a longtime source of tension with Greece, which saw the name as a threat to its own region of Macedonia. Moscow had taken a dim view of the name accord, and of Macedonian membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

For Skopje to achieve full membership, NATO'S 29 current members must ratify the accession protocol.

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.