Greek govt collapses over Macedonia name change deal

Panos Kammenos

Earlier, Greece's right-wing defence minister resigned in protest at a deal ending a long running dispute with Macedonia over its name, saying he was taking his other six ministers in cabinet with him.

The survival of Tsipras, who led Greece through high-drama bailout standoffs and forged an unlikely bond with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hinges on his Independent Greeks coalition ally, whose seven seats in the 300-member parliament give it the balance of power.

Macedonia's parliament ratified the name change deal on Friday, but it will not go into effect until Athens does the same.

"I thanked the prime minister for the cooperation and I explained to him that for this national issue we can not continue", he said, adding that his Independent Greeks party "is pulling out of the government".

Eighty-one of the Macedonian parliament's 120 members backed the name change, securing the required two-thirds majority to push it through.

New Democracy on Sunday described the end of the Tsipras-Kammenos coalition as "a staged governmental divorce".

In June 2018, Greece and Macedonia inked Prespa Agreement, which requires Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece to drop its objection to Macedonia joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and becoming a member of the European Union.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Saturday called on Greece to ratify the deal.

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Kammenos has long opposed the accord with neighboring Macedonia signed by their governments a year ago.

Kammenos had said on Sunday that he would dismiss ANEL ministers who insisted on keeping their ministerial seats ahead of a vote of confidence in the government this week.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's political future is on the line this week after a coalition breakdown prompted him to call a confidence vote in parliament, raising the risk of an early election. Tsipras has consistently rejected proposals made earlier this year by Kammenos and others for a Greek referendum on the deal, as was held in Macedonia/FYROM, or for the need for an enhanced majority of 180 MPs for passage.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

Greece has blocked its neighbour's accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union ever since Macedonia broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name.

For many Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire.

The main conservative opposition party, New Democracy, also opposes the new name.

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