Greek Parliament approves the Protocol for Macedonia's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership

Austria Macedonia

The 153-140 vote in favor of the former Yugoslav republic's NATO membership came after the country agreed a year ago to change its name to North Macedonia and following ratification of the deal by the countries' parliaments.

However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev were able to push through their accord as part of efforts to normalize relations.

"But soon the Greek people and history and mostly the next generations will judge us", he told lawmakers during a tense debate in Parliament over the ratification of a protocol allowing FYROM to join NATO under the name "North Macedonia".

Greece and the former Yugoslav republic - independent since 1991 - struck the historic agreement last summer, despite protests from opposition parties, and ratified it in parliament.

The protocol was backed by 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat legislative body, with 140 lawmakers voting against it and one lawmaker abstaining from the vote.

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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. A poll showed that two-thirds of the public opposed the move.

Staring down strong domestic opposition from Greeks anxious the Balkan neighbor was appropriating Greek heritage, the government of leftist Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras pushed the name change through parliament on January 25.

Macedonia has been attempting for decades to gain membership of the North American Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Provided lawmakers vote for the motion, Greece's foreign ministry will promptly notify the Macedonian government of the result.

Athens asserted that the use of the name "Macedonia" suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece's northern region of Macedonia.