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Macedonia voters approve name change in referendum with low turnout
© Robert Atanasovski/AFP
Macedonia voters approve name change in referendum with low turnout

A referendum in Macedonia to change the country’s name to “The Republic of North Macedonia” garnered a 94.2 percent “yes” vote Sunday, but only 36.8 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

Despite the low turnout, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev accepts [press release, in Macedonian] the result and says he and the government will move forward with bringing the issue to Parliament.

Macedonia, which lies between Balkan and Hellenistic influence, has been contested for many years. Recently it has attempted to accede to the EU, but the name change is a prerequisite for EU membership. “I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity,” said [tweet] Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO. “NATO’s door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed.”

Macedonia is so named because of a 1993 UN Security Council Resolution [materials] that officially severed it from the disintegrating Yugoslavia and established its independence. In 2007 neighboring Greece announced [press release, in Greek] that it would only cooperate with Macedonia if the name is changed erga omnes (the incorporation of the term “Macedonia” in the name, but with the use of a disambiguating name specification, for international and intergovernmental use). Soon afterward UN Moderator Matthew Nimetz proposed several different names, all of which Macedonia rejected.

Now, with a name change as a prerequisite to join the EU, some Macedonian citizens support changing the name while others retain pride in the current name.