The Macedonian parliament has backed draft constitutional reforms, including a key amendment on the country’s name change, clearing another hurdle toward settling a long-standing row with Greece and forging a path to join NATO.
The vote to change the name of the former Yugoslav republic to the Republic of Northern Macedonia on Tuesday went 67 to 23 in favour, with four abstentions.
A simple majority was enough at this early stage, but a two-thirds majority among the 120 lawmakers is required to change the constitution, while the decisive vote is expected in January.
Macedonia’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev appeared to have subdued the nationalist opposition and pushed the name change onto the parliamentary agenda with a two-thirds majority in October.
Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed in June that Macedonia would change its name.
In return, Athens is to stop blocking its neighbour from joining NATO and opening EU membership talks.
Report says Greece claims the name Macedonia and its historic legacy for its Northern province.
However, the row erupted after Macedonia emerged from the disintegrating former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Meanwhile, Tsipras faced fierce resistance to the deal from nationalists in his own country.
The agreement would be on the agenda in Athens after Macedonia has completed the name-change process.
Among those promising to vote against the deal in the Greek parliament are Tsipras’ junior coalition partners.