European Western Balkans

Greek Parliament approves the Prespa Agreement: Reactions, what happens next

Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras; Photo: Tanjug / AP Photo / Yorgos Karahalis

ATHENS/SKOPJE/BRUSSELS – Greek Parliament ratified yesterday the Agreement reached with Macedonia last June, with 153 votes for and 146 against. The ruling Syriza was supported by several MPs from former coalition partner ANEL (Independent Greeks) and Potami.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the deal’s ratification as “historic,” and referred to the Balkan country as North Macedonia, Kathimerini reported. “It will be a friend and an ally of Greece in its efforts for security, stability and mutual development in the region,” Tsipras said of Greece’s Balkan neighbor.

His counterpart Zoran Zaev offered his congratulations on Twitter. “I congratulate my friend Alexis Tsipras, together with our people we have written a historic victory. Long live the Prespa Agreement, and long live peace and progress in Balkans and in Europe”, he wrote.

On the other hand, leader of Greek opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis again expressed his view that the deal will create more problems for Greece than it solves. He reiterated that he will do all he can to mitigate the damage caused to the country, adding however that “once an accord has been ratified, there is little that can be done to change it.”

Foreign Minister of Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov, one of the main architects of the Agreement, also extended his congratulations on this social network.

“Dear Alexis, George and Nikos, Courage and hope defeated fear. The future is there. As [former Foreign Minister Kotzias] Nikos often says, history should be a teacher, not a prison. I am so proud of what we did. Long live our friendship and the friendship between our nations! Long live visionary patriotism!”, wrote Dimitrov.

High Representative of EU Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner Johannes Hahn once again expressed their approval through a joint statement, this time together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

“We warmly welcome the next crucial step in the ratification of the Prespa agreement, taken with today’s vote by the Hellenic Parliament”, the statement reads.

“From the very beginning, the European Union has strongly supported the historic agreement signed by Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zaev, following negotiations under the auspices of the UN. 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.

While we look forward to the next procedural steps leading towards the full implementation of the agreement, we can already say with confidence today that Athens and Skopje have, together, written a new page of our common EU future”, the EU officials concluded.

According to Article 1.6 of the Agreement, Macedonia will notify all international, multinational and regional Organizations, institutions and fora of the entry into force of the Agreement. It will also notify all United Nations member states of the same fact.

Secretary of State of the United States of America Michael Pompeo also released a press statement on the occasion.

“The United States welcomes the decision by Greece’s Parliament to ratify the Prespa Agreement. The leaders of Greece demonstrated vision, courage, and persistence in their pursuit of a solution to the name dispute, which will allow the future Republic of North Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU. The United States applauds this historic opportunity to advance stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region”, the statement reads.

Another high official to congratulate the two countries has been NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“I welcome today’s ratification in the Greek parliament of the Prespa Agreement, an important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the whole region. I look forward to the future Republic of North Macedonia joining NATO”, he wrote on Twitter.

The next step on Macedonia’s path to NATO membership is for the Alliance to prepare a Protocol to the Washington Treaty on Accession for the new member. This is, in fact, an amendment to the original North Atlantic Treaty Agreement, concluded in 1949.

Immediately after that, the process of ratification for the protocol begins, where each of the 29 NATO members has to ratify the protocol according to national procedures. The process varies in each country. The process is expected to be completed by the end of the year and Greece has announced that it will first ratify the protocol, META reports.

While ratification is ongoing, Macedonia is permitted to participate on a certain level in the processes of the Alliance. For example, Macedonia can participate in all forums and meetings, but without voting rights.

The next step is the formal invitation to join NATO, which will be sent to Macedonia by the NATO Secretary General after all States have notified the United States, the depositor of the agreement, that they have ratified the protocol.

Finally, Macedonia will have to formally accept NATO accession – by referendum or by voting in Parliament. It then submits the accession decision to the US State Department, the “guardian” of the Washington Treaty, and officially becomes a NATO member.

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