BRUSSELS, 12 Jan 2019 [Fik/News Sources]: NATO and the EU on Friday welcomed the Macedonian parliament’s approval of a constitutional amendment to change the country’s name to Republic of North Macedonia.
“#NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the [Prespa] agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region,” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said in a Twitter post.
Stoltenberg also congratulated Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev “on the parliament’s final vote” on Prespa Agreement.
In June 2018, Greece and Macedonia inked Prespa Agreement, which requires Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece to drop its objection to Macedonia joining the NATO and becoming a member of the European Union.
Meanwhile, Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for Foreign Relations and Security Policy; and Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy also welcomed the move in a joint statement.
“We express our wholehearted congratulations on the Parliament's vote on the constitutional changes today. This is a crucial step in implementing the historic Prespa agreement,” read the statement.
It went on to say that the political leaders and the citizens have shown determination to solve “one of the oldest disputes in the region.”
“The EU strongly supports this agreement which sets an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole,” the statement added.
Earlier, Macedonian parliament approved constitutional amendment to change the country's name to Republic of North Macedonia.
Greece, a member of both NATO and the EU, has long opposed Macedonia's official name, as it has a province called Macedonia in the north of the country.
Due to Athens' objections, the dispute was one of the main obstacles to Macedonia's ambitions to join NATO and the EU.
Negotiations between Macedonia and Greece have recently picked up pace as a new government in Skopje sought progress in its bid to join the two organizations.
The name issue has kept Macedonia from joining the EU and NATO since its independence in 1991.
Macedonia's international recognition was finalized in April 1993, when the country was unanimously adopted as a member of the UN General Assembly, but was admitted as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to pressure by Greece.
Despite the dispute between Athens and Skopje, many countries, including Turkey, recognize the country as Macedonia.