Macedonia president refuses to sign deal with Greece changing name of country

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Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has said he will not sign a deal reached with Greece on changing his country’s name.

President Ivanov said the agreement, which would rename Macedonia as the ‘Republic of Severna (Northern) Macedonia’, gave too many concessions to Greece.

“My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats. I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement,” Mr Ivanov told a news conference.

The president has the backing of the nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE, and said that Macedonia’s possible future membership of the EU and Nato was not enough of a reason to sign the “bad agreement”. 

“We will oppose this deal of capitulation with all democratic and legal means,” VMRO-DPMNE head Hristijan Mickoski told a news conference, branding the agreement “an absolute defeat for Macedonian diplomacy”.

The deal reached by the two countries’ prime minister is expected to be signed by their foreign ministers this weekend. After that, Macedonia’s parliament would vote on it, and if it is approved, Mr Ivanov’s signature would be needed. 

Macedonia’s centre-left government also needs a two-thirds majority to win parliamentary approval and this would require the backing of VMRO-DPMNE, which is strongly opposed to the accord.

If the president refuses to sign, the deal would return to parliament for another vote. Mr Ivanov would have to sign off on the agreement if it passed a second time. 

In Athens, resistance to the Macedonia deal has been growing. A source in Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, said it planned to submit a motion of no-confidence in the government of Alexis Tsipras over the deal.

New Democracy will submit the motion after the conclusion of a debate on bailout reforms scheduled to wrap up late on Thursday, the source told Reuters.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the Macedonia deal “deeply problematic” because he said most Greeks were against it and Mr Tsipras lacked the authority to sign it.

“We are in a situation that is unprecedented in Greece’s constitutional history. A prime minister without a clear parliamentary mandate willing to commit the country to a reality which will not be possible to change,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

Reuters

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