No snap poll in Greece over Macedonia name hurdle: Tsipras

1 / 2
Many Greeks fear the Macedonia name deal will officially enable Skopje to lay claim to their cultural heritage, leading some Greeks to protest -- including on Friday

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday said his government would complete its four-year term despite disagreement with his coalition partner over a disputed name deal with Macedonia.

Tsipras said his coalition partner Panos Kammenos, head of the nationalist Independent Greeks party, "will not endanger the country's recovery and political stability".

"The country needs political stability," he told a news conference in Thessaloniki.

Elections are not scheduled for another year but Kammenos has vowed to do everything in his power to block the deal, including leaving the government.

The preliminary agreement with Macedonia in June, to be confirmed by a referendum by Skopje later this month and a Greek parliamentary vote early in 2019, will see the Balkan state renamed North Macedonia.

Tsipras on Sunday acknowledged that full implementation of the agreement "will not be easy" as it requires a constitutional revision that the Macedonian government currently lacks the necessary parliamentary majority to undertake.

The tiny landlocked country had joined the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece also has a northern province named Macedonia, the heart of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom, and many Greeks fear the deal will officially enable Skopje to lay claim to their cultural heritage.

There is also concern that most of the world will simply continue to call the neighbouring country Macedonia.

But Tsipras insisted Sunday that the deal "fully safeguards the history of ancient Macedonia, which is Greek and is part of our national identity."

A June opinion poll showed most Greeks oppose the deal. Some 7,000 people demonstrated on Saturday in Thessaloniki in a protest organised by local citizens and church groups.

A small group of protesters threw flares and stones at police, who responded with tear gas into crowds that included children.

Eight people were arrested, two of them minors. Several shops and cars were vandalised by suspected far-right hardliners, including one with Turkish license plates.

The main opposition New Democracy party also rejects the deal, but Tsipras, who controls 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament, could still get it approved by simple majority with the help of lawmakers from smaller parties or independents who have voiced support.