Macedonia's parliament took a critical step toward changing the country's name, a move that would pave the way for the Balkan nation to join NATO and the European Union.
A total of 80 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor of the procedural measure late October 19, advancing the proposed change to make the country's name, the Republic of North Macedonia.
The vote was considered a crucial gauge of whether the government could muster enough votes in parliament for the measures. A final vote on the changes is expected in coming weeks.
The name change has faced angry opposition from Macedonian nationalists, but also in neighboring Greece, where there is a similarly named region.
Leaders from the two countries hammered out a deal on the name change earlier this year, and Macedonians voter overwhelmingly approved the measure in a September 30 referendum. However, the nonbinding referendum was ruled invalid due to low turnout.
Under the deal with Greece, Athens agreed to lift its objections to Macedonia joining both NATO and the EU -- obstacles that had blocked Skopje's bid to join the Western bloc for decades.
Greece for years maintained that Macedonia's name implied the Balkan nation had territorial claims to its northern province of the same name.
RFE/RL's Balkan Service
RFE/RL's Balkan Service promotes the values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in a region where genuine media freedom remains elusive and where many media outlets remain divided along ethnic lines.
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