Wed, 14 Nov 2018
45
Washington

The Macedonian parliament is set to debate on October 15 proposed constitutional amendments to change the country's name and settle a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece.

In June, the Macedonian and Greek governments hammered out a deal under which Athens agreed to lift its objections to the former Yugoslav republic joining both NATO and the EU in exchange for the country changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

Macedonians on September 30 voted more than 90 percent to back the accord, but the vote attracted only 34 percent of eligible voters - less than the required 50 percent turnout for the referendum to be declared valid.

Despite that, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowed to keep pushing for a change to the Balkan nation's name and amend the constitution as required by the deal with Greece.

It was still unclear whether the Social Democrat's ruling coalition, backed by parties representing ethnic Albanians, will have the two-third's majority in the 120-seat parliament to pass the proposed changes.

Zaev will need to get the support of around a dozen deputies from the nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, which has campaigned against the change.

VMRO-DPMNE has vowed to defeat the proposed constitutional amendments, maintaining that it was rejected by voters because of the poor turnout in the referendum.

In an interview with the Macedonian Information Agency news agency, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on October 14 reiterated support for the agreement between Athens and Skopje, saying it was a 'unique opportunity for reconciliation in the Western Balkans, which may never happen again.'

Zaev, who came to power following elections 22 months ago, has said he would call early elections if the amendments fail to pass in parliament.

Greece, an EU and NATO member, has for years maintained that Macedonia's name implied the Balkan nation had territorial claims to its northern province of the same name.

RFE/RL's Balkan Service

RFE/RL's Balkan Service promotes the values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in a region where genuine media freedom remains elusive and where many media outlets remain divided along ethnic lines.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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