VERONA, Italy- One of Europe's most enduring political disputes came to a formal end Friday, with Greece's Parliament approving an agreement that allows Macedonia to change its name and eventually join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.
The so-called Prespes Agreement was passed in parliament with 153 votes in favor and 146 against, a clear win for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Shortly after the deal was ratified, Tspiras said in a tweet: "Today we are writing a new page in the Balkans".
"Today's success is a proof that progressive political forces are able to solve long-standing disagreements and make hard compromises which nationalists or conservatives had not been able to do in nearly three decades. For eternal peace and progress of the Balkans and in Europe!" The landmark decision now opens gate for the former Yugoslav republic to join European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
The accord has already been ratified by Macedonia's parliament, but still needs Greek parliamentary endorsement.
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 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The EU socialists' sister party in Greece is the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), which voted against the Prespa Agreement.
For many Greeks, especially in the north where the province of Macedonia is the birthplace of Alexander, the name "Macedonia" belongs to Greek historical heritage. Greece has objected to its neighbor's constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, fearing that the name indicates territorial ambitions over the northern Greek province of Macedonia.
Macedonia's government, led by Social Democrat Zoran Zaev, has heavily emphasised the prospect of an European Union future in efforts to sell the name change to the public.
Opposition to the deal is strongest in northern Greece, where many have long demanded the country on their border not use any derivative of the term "Macedonia" in its name.
Most other nations, including Russian Federation and the United States, later recognise its constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.
"Macedonia and Greek are winning and losing something, but finally is for the good of both sides", he said.
For months, thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets in Athens, Thessaloniki and elsewhere across the country to protest against the deal.
When does the new name take effect?
The next step will be for Greece to inform its neighbour and then for Macedonia to tell the United Nations.
In 2001, Greece expresses support for Skopje as it faces an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks. Athens views it as an attempt to appropriate one of its greatest heroes.
Torrential rain and driving wind kept many protesters away on the final day of the debate.
"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", the EU officials said.
In exchanges with RFI, he explains that the name issue was "chronically exploited by nationalist politicians" as a means to influence more votes.
Votes for the agreement were cast by ruling SYRIZA's parliamentary group of 145 MPs, as well as the MPs Elena Kountoura, Katerina Papakosta, Thanassis Papachristopoulos, Stavros Theodorakis, Spyros Lykoudis, Giorgos Mavrotas, Thanassis Theocharopoulos and Spyros Danellis. Following the upheaval, Tsipras narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament Wednesday.