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Image source Wikimedia

Macedonia’s referendum on changing its name to North Macedonia has failed to reach the required turnout.

Preliminary results show that just over a third of Macedonians voted in the referendum, with 50% needed.

However, with 90% of those who took part in favor of the change, Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has urged parliament to “confirm the will of the majority”.

The vote aimed to end a long-running dispute with neighboring Greece, which has its own region called Macedonia.

Greece had agreed to end its objections to Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership bids if the change was passed.

Over 85% of votes have been counted so far, but a campaign by some nationalists – including the country’s president – to boycott September 30 referendum seems to have had an impact, with just 36% of eligible voters taking part.

Macedonia and Greece Sign Agreement to End Name Dispute

Macedonia to Become Republic of North Macedonia after Reaching Name Deal with Greece

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

PM Zoran Zaev threatened to call early elections if parliament did not support the proposal, made non-binding by the poor turnout.

He said after polls closed on September 30: “If, as we all expect, we truly have a big visible, tangible majority for [voting in favor], out of those who voted, then the future is clear.

“The vote of the lawmakers in parliament must resolutely be a vote for a responsible acceleration of the processes towards NATO and the European Union.”

Macedonia declared independence during the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece objected to its new neighbor’s name.

The dispute harks back to ancient history, because both present-day Macedonia and northern Greece were part of a Roman province called Macedonia. And both claim the heritage of Alexander the Great two centuries earlier.

Athens’ objections forced the UN to refer to the new country as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Greece also vetoed Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO in 2008 – and blocked its EU membership ambitions.

Since 1991, many suggestions have been proposed, then rejected. However, last year’s change of government in Macedonia finally brought the start of serious negotiations.


If the name will be changed, Greece will end its veto on Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU.

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Macedonia and Greece have signed an agreement settling a 27-year-long dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Under the agreement, the country known at the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will become North Macedonia.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was “a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples”.

Heated rows over Macedonia’s name have been going on since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, of which it was a part, and have held up Macedonia’s entry to NATO and the EU.

Greece has long argued that by using the name Macedonia, its neighbor was implying it had a claim on the northern Greek province also called Macedonia.

The deal has been announced on June 12 and has pressed ahead despite protests.

Image source Wikimedia

Macedonia to Become Republic of North Macedonia after Reaching Name Deal with Greece

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev watched as their foreign ministers signed the deal on Lake Prespa on Greece’s northern border on June 17.

The agreement still needs to be approved by both parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia.

Nationalists on both sides say it erodes their identity.

On June 16, PM Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote over the deal amid accusations he made too many concessions.

Under the deal, Macedonia would be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.

Its language would be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

As part of the agreement, Greece would lift its objections to the renamed nation joining the EU and NATO.

There is still some way to go before the name change becomes official.

The Macedonian parliament first needs to back the deal. That would be followed by a referendum in September or October.

If Macedonian voters support it, the government would have to change the constitution, which is a key Greek demand.

Things have been complicated further as Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov is refusing to sign the agreement.

President Ivanov has the power to veto the deal – but not indefinitely.

If the president refuses to sign the agreement, it will be sent back to parliament for a second vote. If it passes again, the president would then be obliged to approve the legislation.

The agreement will finally have to be ratified by the Greek parliament, a process which may also not be straightforward.