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Macedonians vote in referendum that could change their country’s name
Changing Macedonia’s name to North Macedonia would pave the way to joining NATO under a deal with Greece. But the controversial agreement has faced immense opposition from the public in both countries
Macedonians are heading to polling stations on Sunday, September 30 to decide on land-standing dispute over the name of their country. Greece has accused the former Yugoslav republic of stealing the legacy—and even territory—of its northernmost province, also called Macedonia. The rift has resulted in Greece's blocking Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union.
Today, voters must decide whether they are in favour of possible NATO and EU memberships as a result of a deal struck in June between their government and Greece.
The deal aims to end the long-standing dispute between the two countries, with the former changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.
Opponents in Macedonia, including the country's president, Gjorge Ivanov, called for a boycott of the Sunday vote, calling the deal "poisonous" and a "flagrant violation of sovereignty."
Support for 'Yes' campaign
The referendum is non-binding and was not mandatory as part of the agreement made by Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras. However, a majority "Yes" would be considered a reflection of public opinion and allow the government to amend its constitution with the name change. Only after the Macedonian parliament approves certain constitutional changes would Greece ratify the bilateral agreement.
The Macedonian referendum has stirred much interest across Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently heading to Skojpe to urge Macedonians to vote 'Yes.'
Moscow is reportedly against NATO's expansion, with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis saying there was "no doubt" Russia funded the "No" campaign in Macedonia.
PM Zoran Zaev believes NATO and EU memberships would boost Macedonia's economic growth.