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Rioters taunt Greek police at Macedonia protest

Rioters taunt Greek police at Macedonia protest

Greek MPs have voted narrowly to back a historic agreement with Macedonia, bringing to an end a 27-year dispute over its northern neighbour's name.

The Greek parliament ratified a deal to rename Macedonia in a historic vote today. If the deal is ratified in parliament, Athens must then also officially notify North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union that it supports its northern neighbor's efforts to join those institutions, and ratify Macedonia's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession protocol.

Tsipras said a new page was written for the Balkans.

In broad terms, the deal stipulates Macedonia officially changes its name to North Macedonia and uses its new name both domestically and internationally. The Prespa Agreement was signed in June 2018. Greece refused to accept the country name Macedonia for a long time because its in the North the province is also called so. The landmark decision now opens gate for the former Yugoslav republic to join European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. "For eternal peace and progress of the Balkans and in Europe!" he wrote.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras worked on the deal with his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev past year, was able to secure a parliamentary majority today to get the deal approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.

For the new country that emerged from the breakup of Yugoslavia, the name Macedonia was one way for politicians to instill a sense of national pride, identity and nationhood in its population.

"Therefore the use of "Macedonia" by our northern neighbour it's like an historical theft committed against "Greekness", Dimitris Christopoulos, professor of political science at Panteion University in Athens, said.

But polls indicate that almost 7 in 10 Greeks oppose the accord, and many accuse Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of pulling his party away from its populist roots while ramming through a deal that has won him acclaim from overseas.

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They fear it could lead to territorial claims over Greece's largest northern province of Macedonia and an appropriation of Greek cultural heritage. "If you ask me what I am, I'm a Macedonian, and I am Greek". The vote was also a blow to Russian Federation, which had allegedly tried to stoke opposition to the name deal with a disinformation campaign and by offering money and bribes. The agreement, which Greek lawmakers are expected to ratify on Thursday, has stirred angry protests in both countries.

The name change is deeply controversial in Greece.

Many Greeks opposing the deal view it as an attempt by their neighbours to hijack ancient Greek civilization and culture.

Separately, the Greek Communist Party held a rally in front of the US Embassy in Athens to protest the deal.

Torrential rain and driving wind kept many protesters away on the final day of the debate.

Macedonian parliamentarians approved the constitutional amendments to change their country's name already two weeks ago.

Dimitrov urged other countries to follow the Prespa model, saying action on a host of problems from diplomatic disputes to education and health must be taken fast to curb the exodus of young people across the region.

"I also thank the lawmakers of the two countries, these courageous women and men who chose to unite their votes to the victory of the future", he said.