The Latest: EU hails Greek approval of Macedonia name deal

Published 01-25-2019

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) - The Latest on ratification of an agreement to resolve the place name dispute between Greece and Macedonia (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

Top European Union officials are hailing as a historic moment the Greek parliament's ratification of the Macedonia name agreement, paving the way for the Balkan country to join NATO.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU's top diplomat and the senior official supervising the bloc's enlargement, said jointly Friday that they "warmly welcome" the vote in Athens, which has "written a new page of our common EU future."

They say that "it took political courage, leadership and responsibility on all sides to resolve one of the most entrenched disputes in the region. Both countries have seized this unique opportunity, which sets an example of reconciliation for Europe as a whole and will give a further boost to the European perspective of the region."

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3:30 p.m.

Greek lawmakers have ratified an agreement for the country to drop its objections to neighboring Macedonia joining NATO if the small country's name is changed to North Macedonia.

The deal faced fierce opposition and had already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority. It passed Friday with the support of independent lawmakers.

The ratification vote came after three days of acrimonious debate on the deal, which aimed to end a nearly three decade-long dispute that has kept Macedonia from joining the western military alliance and the European Union.

Greece h

3:30 p.m.

Greek lawmakers have ratified an agreement for the country to drop its objections to neighboring Macedonia joining NATO if the small country's name is changed to North Macedonia.

The deal faced fierce opposition and had already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority. It passed Friday with the support of independent lawmakers.

The ratification vote came after three days of acrimonious debate on the deal, which aimed to end a nearly three decade-long dispute that has kept Macedonia from joining the western military alliance and the European Union.

Greece has long argued use of the term Macedonia implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, and usurped its culture and ancient Greek history.

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11:55 a.m.

Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalizing relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbor will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.

More protests were scheduled in Athens and the northern city of Thessa

The deal faced fierce opposition and had already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority. It passed Friday with the support of independent lawmakers.

The ratification vote came after three days of acrimonious debate on the deal, which aimed to end a nearly three decade-long dispute that has kept Macedonia from joining the western military alliance and the European Union.

Greece has long argued use of the term Macedonia implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, and usurped its culture and ancient Greek history.

___

11:55 a.m.

Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalizing relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbor will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.

More protests were scheduled in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki Friday. Opposition is particularly fierce in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, which borders the former Yugoslav republic that claimed the same name after declaring independence in 1991. Critics claim the deal signs away their identity and a cultural heritage dating back to Alexander the Great more than 2,300 years ago.

The agreement has already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority after the right-wing Independent Greeks quit the governing coalition in protest.

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Under heavy rain, opponents of Prespa Agreement, some holding Greek flags, gather outside the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) - The Associated Press


Members of the Greek parliament debate the Prespa Agreement in Athens, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas) - The Associated Press


Members of the public was as Greek lawmakers debate the Prespa Agreement at the parliament in Athens, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas) - The Associated Press


A flare thrown by opponents of Prespa Agreement, attending a rally outside the Greek Parliament, burns in front of police officers in riot gear guarding one of its entrances in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Greek lawmakers are debating a historic agreement aimed at normalising relations with Macedonia in a stormy parliamentary session scheduled to culminate in a Friday vote. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) - The Associated Press


Members of the Greek Communist party set ablaze a United States flag during a rally against Prespa Agreement in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Greek lawmakers are debating a historic agreement aimed at normalising relations with Macedonia in a stormy parliamentary session scheduled to culminate in a Friday vote. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas) - The Associated Press


Greek riot police chase the demonstrators opponents of Prespa Agreement outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Greek lawmakers are debating a historic agreement aimed at normalizing relations with Macedonia in a stormy parliamentary session scheduled to culminate in Friday vote. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) - The Associated Press


Holding a Greek flag an opponent of Prespa Agreement stands ahead of a rally in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, centre left, that was instrumental of the Prespa Agreement, talks with Former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, centre right, during a debate at the Greek parliament on the Prespa Agreement in Athens, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas) - The Associated Press


Holding a flag with the Star of Vergina, the emblem of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia and Alexander the Great, opponents of Prespa Agreement chant slogans in a rally in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.(AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Under heavy rain, riot police officers guard the Greek Parliament, in Athens, ahead of a scheduled rally of opponents of Prespa Agreement, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. Critics claim the deal signs away their identity and a cultural heritage dating back to Alexander the Great more than 2,300 years ago. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) - The Associated Press


Opponents of Prespa Agreement, some holding Greek flags, chat with police officers guarding the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) - The Associated Press


Holding Greek flags, opponents of Prespa Agreement chant slogans in a rally in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalising relations with Macedonia, under which Greece's northern neighbour will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.(AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press