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Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name

Reuters logo Reuters 11/01/2019
a group of people walking in front of a building: FILE PHOTO: Macedonian police stand guard near the parliament building in Skopje © Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski FILE PHOTO: Macedonian police stand guard near the parliament building in Skopje

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonia's parliament passed on Friday an amendment to the constitution to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, as agreed with Greece to put an end to a 27-year dispute.

Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor. Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, who opposed the agreement with Greece, boycotted the vote.

The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also ratifies the agreement.

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Greece blocked its neighbor's aspirations to EU and NATO membership over the use of 'Macedonia', which it said implied territorial claims by to a Greek province of the same name.

At the start of the parliamentary session, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told deputies the name change would "open the doors to the future, Macedonia's European future", and to joining the North Atlantic alliance.

Several hundred people have protested against the deal in front of parliament over the past three days.

(Reporting by Kole Casule; writing by Ivana Sekularac; editing by John Stonestreet)

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