Greek Defense Minister Resigns Over Macedonia Name Deal


Greece's government unraveled, prompting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call a confidence vote that could trigger an early election and end the leftist leader's four years in power.

Defence Minister and a leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party Panos Kammenos announced that the split within the coalition was caused by different views on the Macedonia name issue. The name appears to have been chosen back then, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras having said that the neighbouring country would be Severna Makedonija or Republic of North Macedonia. Kammenos has already stated that the Independent Greeks would not support the ruling Syriza party.

Tsipras briefly addressed the press just after noon Sunday, announcing he is invoking the established procedure for an immediate vote of confidence in his government in Greece's parliament in order to continue the government's term to the fall of 2019, and that he would be asking Greece's current Chief of Defence, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis to step in as Defence Minister.

A New Democracy member allegedly revealed the personal mobile phone numbers of ANEL lawmakers.

The investigation, according to judicial sources, is looking into whether personal data was violated as part of the probe.

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Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority. It now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect. However, the Greek Parliament still needs to vote - and this will likely prove no easy task given how deeply divisive the issue remains there, a report in The New York Times observed. The controversial agreement would also allow Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", he said. Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union, and Johannes Hahn, who leads efforts to expand the bloc, issued a joint statement: "Political leaders and citizens alike have shown their determination to seize this unique and historic opportunity in solving one of the oldest disputes in the region".

The proposal faces resistance in Greece, which has a northern province of the same name, over implied claims to Greek territory.

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

The naming row between the two countries began 27 years ago when FYROM declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but has roots going back to antiquity. For the Greeks, Macedonia is significant as the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire.

Last June, Zaev and Tsipras reached a landmark compromise over the name dispute.