Macedonia to Hold Name Change Referendum on September 30
Macedonia's parliament on Monday set September 30 as the date for a referendum on changing the country's name to the Republic of North Macedonia, a high-stakes vote aimed at resolving a long-running row with Greece and clearing the path to join NATO and the EU.
Skopje and Athens signed a landmark agreement in June to rename the former Yugoslav republic in an effort to break a stalemate that has poisoned their relations since 1991 and hobbled Macedonia's integration with the West.
Greece has objected to its neighbor being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name, accusing Skopje of territorial ambitions and appropriating its cultural heritage.
While more than 120 countries, including the U.S. and Russia, have recognized the name the "Republic of Macedonia," Athens has voiced its protest by blocking the country from joining NATO or starting EU accession talks.
The referendum question approved by 68 out of Macedonia's 120 lawmakers on Monday does not spell out the new name clearly.
But it closely links the vote to the government's ambitions of stronger ties with the West.
On September 30 the public will be asked: "Are you for EU and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?"
The nationalist opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, which opposes the referendum, boycotted the parliamentary vote by leaving the room, signaling a rocky road ahead.
"The question is ambiguous and multifaceted, and above all manipulative," said Igor Janusev, a leading member of VMRO-DPMNE.
Vote will be 'consultative'
After the deal was struck between Greek and Macedonian leaders in June, NATO said Macedonia would be eligible to join the...