Macedonia votes to change their name

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) parliament voted to begin the process to rename their country to North Macedonia on October 20th.

Eighty deputies in the 120-member parliament voted in favour of the change, which was just enough to reach the two-thirds threshold for it to pass.

FYROM gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and since then its name has been a point of contention with its neighbour Greece.

Greece argues that FYROM is appropriating the history and symbols of ancient Macedon. The ancient kingdom geographically lies mainly in modern-day Greece.

Additionally, there currently exists a region in Greece which is also called Macedonia. The people from this region are ethnically Greek, while people from FYROM are ethnically Slavic.

As such, Greece claims they are the true successor of Macedon, as the ancient kingdom’s citizens were not Slavic. Thus, actions such as FYROM naming their capital’s airport after Alexander the Great (who was from Macedon) contributed to the dispute.

However, back in February 2018, FYROM dropped Alexander’s name from the airport in an attempt to improve relations with Greece.

Due to the naming issue, FYROM was blocked from the EU and NATO. As Greece is a member of both, FYROM must get their approval before they can become official members of either.

FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told The Guardian that is was a historic day for the country.

“Macedonia will be part of the European family, our dreams and visions for better life in a better country will be fulfilled,” he said.

The vote was left up to parliament after a referendum on the issue failed to reach the 50 per cent turnout threshold. The parliament’s decision to change the name of the country requires a constitutional change, which requires several more rounds of voting that will conclude at the earliest in January.

After FYROM changes their constitution, the Greek parliament will also have to vote on it.

The EU’s commissioner in charge of enlargement, Johannes Hanh, said on Twitter that it was “A great day for democracy in Skopje” (FYROM’s capital).

The Greek parliament is currently being propped up in the legislature by a small right-wing party led by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos. The minister threatened to quit the coalition if the Greek parliament goes ahead with their vote.

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

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