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Parliament Debate On Macedonia Name Change Delayed Until January 11

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"This is a historic and patriotic choice. We can be the generation that has made a bold decision," Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on January 9.

The Macedonian parliament's crucial debate on the country's name change was delayed until January 11, as Prime Minister Zoran Zaev scrambled to secure the required majority.

Lawmakers on January 10 were set to resume the debate on renaming the country the Republic of Northern Macedonia in order to resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece and open the way for NATO and European Union membership.

But the start of the debate was delayed several times before being rescheduled for noon local time the following day to give Zaev more time to negotiate with lawmakers.

A two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to pass a constitutional amendment on the name change.

Speaking at the start of the debate on January 9, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev urged lawmakers to vote in favor of the name change.

"This is a historic and patriotic choice. We can be the generation that has made a bold decision," Zaev said.

If parliament passes the name change, Greece has promised to stop blocking Skopje's efforts to join NATO and the European Union.

Zaev doesn't have a two-thirds majority in the 120-member parliament. That means he and his party need lawmakers from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE to back the effort. That happened in November, when the name-change process began.

The debate was initially scheduled to begin during the early afternoon of January 9 but was postponed for several hours while several hundred nationalist protesters demonstrated in front of the parliament against the name change.

Protests At Macedonian Parliament As Debate Over Name Change Delayed
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The protesters say their demonstration was aimed at defending Macedonia's name, identity, and history, as well as the traditions of the Macedonian people, against what they called "the greatest national treachery."

The protesters said they would gather again on January 10.

The agreement with Greece was signed in June 2018. The deal has met with opposition in both countries, with critics saying it makes too many concessions to the other side.

Athens argues that use of the name "Macedonia" implies territorial claims on Greece's northern province of the same name, and on its ancient Greek heritage.

Even if the Macedonia approves the name change, it still needs to be cleared by the Greek parliament.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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