Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wins confidence vote

The vote came after a key minister in the Greek government quit last week over the Macedonia name dispute. Prime Minister Tsipras said he would put the ratification of the Macedonia name-change agreement on the agenda.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday won a confidence vote in parliament, just days after the country's governing coalition collapsed.

Tsipras received the minimum 151 votes he needed from the parliament for his government to survive.

Speaking after the vote, Tsipras said winning a vote of confidence was a vote for stability in Greece.

"Today the Greek parliament gave a vote of confidence in stability," he said. "We received a vote of confidence with our only concern to continue to address the needs and interests of the Greek people."

Panos Kammenos, the defense minister in Tsipras' government who leads the small nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, was the latest minister to quit the coalition over a proposed name-change agreement with neighboring Macedonia.

Greece has been blocking Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union for a decade over the name row.

Under that agreement, the former Yugoslav republic added the geographic qualifier "North" to its name to differentiate itself from the ancient and modern-day Greek province of the same name, in exchange for Greece to no longer block its path to NATO and EU membership.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

NATO next?

Should voters approve the name change to North Macedonia in Sunday's referendum, it could pave the way for the country to join NATO and the European Union. Previous talks stalled due to a veto by the Greek government in 2009.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

Ethnic conflicts

Over the years, ethnic conflicts have been rife in Macedonia as a large part if its population consists of Albanian and Turkish minorities. The name deal would end one of the country's long-running conflicts with Greece.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

Whose history is it?

Macedonia's previous government rebuilt the main square of its capital, Skopje, with an emphasis on history. It claimed its population were direct descendants of Alexander the Great. Greece has accused its neighboring country of trying to steal its history and identity.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

Anger on both sides

The proposed name change has triggered protests in both countries, with Macedonian nationalists calling it an assault on the country's identity.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

'Our name is Macedonia'

The protests were often led by far-right organizations both in Macedonia and Greece. The Macedonian far-right group MHRMI (Macedonian Human Rights Movement International) put up billboards along a central street in Gevgelija, a town near the border with Greece.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

Glorifying the past

Macedonia's new archaeological museum was part of Skopje 2014, a project aimed at lending a more classical appeal to the country's capital. Former populist leader Nikola Gruevski and his government oversaw Skopje 2014, which saw hundreds of pseudo-historical monuments and baroque buildings erected throughout the capital.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

United protests

Widespread protests took place in Greece before, during and after the negotiations to change Macedonia's name. They were often led by the far right but there were also protesters from across the political and social spectrum.

Macedonia: What's in a name (change)?

Tempers flare

Extreme right-wing protesters clashed with riot police in the Greek city of Thessaloniki during protests against the deal on September 8, 2018.

Deal not good enough

Kammenos said the deal did not go far enough and argued that no country should be allowed to keep the name "Macedonia" in any form.

Tipras had earlier said that if he won the vote, he would swiftly put the ratification of the agreement with Macedonia on the agenda.

Even if he had lost the vote, he had said he would continue leading a minority government until the regular election set for October.

Speaking following a meeting with Tsipras on Wednesday in Athens, EU Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the name-change agreement is supported by all EU member states and is beneficial to Greece, the Ekathimerini news portal reported.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

Present day

As well as Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the geographic region of Macedonia extends into Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia as well as small areas of Kosovo (which you can't quite see here).

Shape-shifting Macedonia

Greek origins

The ancient kingdom of Macedonia – or Macedon – was a relatively small part of the present day Greek province of Macedonia. It first expanded under King Perdiccas I, then widened to take in other areas.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

A Roman province

After the fall of the Greek Empire, the Romans – who admired Alexander – used the old name Macedonia for the province encompassing much of northern Greece and the area north of it – including much of the modern-day Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

A shift to the east

With the breakup of the Roman Empire into East and West, this region was overrun by the Slavic invasions. An entirely new province far to the east, including part of Thrace in modern-day Turkey, was named Macedonia by the Byzantine Empress Irene of Athens.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

Ottoman roots for current concept

The geographic region known as Macedonia today roughly equates to the part of the Ottoman Empire known as Ottoman Vardar Macedonia. It included Greek and Slavic areas and was split into three administrative units, but the concept of Macedonia persisted. This remained the case for centuries and so this concept – of what Macedonia is – has stuck.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

Let's put that all together...

...and there's certainly a fair bit of overlap — and room for confusion.

Shape-shifting Macedonia

Small matter of empire

Of course, Macedonia's King Alexander the Great's realm stretched all the way to India — but it would be a bit of a stretch to call that Macedonia

Shape-shifting Macedonia

A heady mix of flavors

As if it weren’t complicated enough, there’s another meaning of the word Macedonia. In Greece and many Latin-language-speaking countries, it’s also a fruit salad. The name is thought to have ben popularized at the end of the 18th century, referring to either the ethnic diversity of Alexander's vast empire or the ethnic mix of Ottoman Macedonia.

law/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)