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Macedonian Name Deal Faces Opposition, Tests In Parliament


"There is a need for a wider national consensus to find a solution that won't hurt the dignity of the Macedonian people and citizens," Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said.

With praise pouring in from Western leaders over Macedonia's settlement of its name dispute with Greece, the leaders of both countries face the tough task for shepherding the agreement through their national parliaments.

Critics of the deal, who organized opposition rallies in both countries in the days leading up to the announced agreement, repeated their objections on June 12 and signaled they will oppose its ratification.

"Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia," said Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE. He called the deal to name his country the Republic of North Macedonia -- or Severna Makedonija in Macedonian -- a "fake victory."

Mickoski charged that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev "capitulated" to Greece in making the deal. The VMRO party was defeated by Zaev's Social Democrat party in elections last year.

"Today is a hard day," said Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE.
"Today is a hard day," said Hristijan Mickoski, president of Macedonia's opposition party VMRO-DPMNE.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov repeated his concerns about the deal, which he has said should not change the way Macedonians refer to their country internally or require constitutional changes.

"There is a need for a wider national consensus to find a solution that won't hurt the dignity of the Macedonian people and citizens," Ivanov said on June 12.

Opposition lingered in Greece as well, where many people oppose letting their northern neighbor use the name "Macedonia" at all, as it is the same name as Greece's northernmost province.

"This is a bad agreement that is in conflict with the majority of the Greek people," said Greece's main opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He urged Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras not to go ahead with the agreement.

Protesters wave Greek flags as they take part in a demonstration to protest against the use of the name Macedonia in Pella on June 6.
Protesters wave Greek flags as they take part in a demonstration to protest against the use of the name Macedonia in Pella on June 6.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras's governing coalition partner, said he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote, meaning the left-wing prime minister will need to seek support from political opponents to get ratification.

But the deal was applauded in Washington, at the United Nations, and by the European Union.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the settlement "will benefit both countries and bolster regional security and prosperity."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the agreement as "a demonstration of leadership" and urged "all citizens in both countries to come together and move the process forward."

The UN envoy who helped mediate the dispute over many years, Matthew Nimetz, said he has "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighboring countries and especially between their people."

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Tsipras and Zaev.

"I am keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible," he said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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