Macedonia’s parliament has approved a proposal to change the country’s name, a move that could pave the way for it to join NATO and the European Union.
Eighty members of parliament in the 120-seat body voted in favor of the measure Friday to rename the country North Macedonia, just surpassing the two-thirds supermajority needed to enact constitutional changes.
Parliament was forced to address the issue after a September referendum on the matter failed to achieve the turnout threshold of 50 percent.
According to election officials, only about a third of eligible voters cast ballots in the September referendum. However, they said more than 90 percent of those voting cast ballots in favor of changing the country’s name to North Macedonia. Conservatives in Macedonia strongly oppose the name change and boycotted the referendum.
Macedonians are being asked to change the name of their country to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece and pave the way for the country’s admission into NATO and the EU.
Athens has argued that the name “Macedonia” belongs exclusively to its northern province of Macedonia and that using the name implies Skopje’s intentions to claim the Greek province.
The two countries agreed on the name change in June.
Greece has for years pressured Skopje into renouncing the country’s name, forcing it to use the more formal moniker Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations. Greece has consistently blocked its smaller neighbor from gaining membership in NATO and the EU as long it retained its name.
The process for Macedonia’s parliament to fully change the country’s name is lengthy and will require several more rounds of voting.