Greek police fired tear gas to disperse crowds gathered outside parliament on Thursday to protest a deal over the name of neighboring FYR Macedonia, as an at-times angry parliamentary debate spilled into a third day.
Several thousand people massed outside the Greek legislature, some of them chanting “traitors” as lawmakers debated ratification of an agreement reached with the neighboring ex-Yugoslav state last year.
The Greek parliament delayed the expected approval of the U.N.-brokered deal by a day due to an increased number of lawmakers who wanted to have a say.
The so-called Prespes Agreement between Athens and Skopje changes the tiny Balkan nation’s name to Republic of North Macedonia, ending a 28-year-old dispute between the two countries.
Although Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears to have secured the support of at least 151 deputies in the 300-seat house to get the deal approved, opinion polls have shown most Greeks oppose the term “Macedonia” being used in any agreement.
They fear it could lead to territorial claims over Greece’s largest northern province of Macedonia and an appropriation of Greek cultural heritage.
“We feel betrayed,” Zografos Stathakopoulos, a 47-year-old protester, said Thursday. “Most Greeks don’t want this deal, but politicians are betraying us.”
Members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) unfurled banners on the walls of the ancient Acropolis to protest the deal Thursday.
Protesters chanted “Long live Macedonia, long live Greece!” referring to the Greek province of Macedonia. Police chased protesters on Syntagma Square, the same area of large, violent protests in Athens on Sunday.
There were also protests in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Parliamentary speaker Nikos Voutsis said close to 230 MPs had wanted to have their say. Most are given six minutes to speak, a rule which has been routinely broken in the highly-charged session, which opened Wednesday.
The accord has already been ratified by Macedonia’s parliament, and Greek parliamentary endorsement is necessary for the country to eventually join the European Union and NATO.
Protesters are planning new rallies for Friday, before the vote takes place around 1230 GMT.