Macedonia to vote on new name to end Greek row

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

Vot­ers across the Balkan state of Macedonia will de­cide Sun­day whether to re-name their coun­try North Macedonia, an emo­tional vote that could end a bit­ter row with Greece and un­lock a path to NATO and the EU.

It is a loaded ques­tion for many in the na­tion of around 2.1 mil­lion, which has tus­sled with Greece for 27 years over its name and history.

Athens ob­jects to its north­ern neigh­bor’s name be­cause it has its own prov­ince called Macedonia.

It ac­cuses Skopje of en­croach­ing on its ter­ri­tory and cul­tural her­itage.

In protest Greece has used its veto to thwart Macedonia’s progress in NATO and EU ac­ces­sion talks.

But in June the two neigh­bors reached a com­pro­mise: the Repub­lic of North Macedonia.

Now Mace­do­nians are be­ing called on to ap­prove the name, de­spite a wide­spread feel­ing that they have been pushed around by Greece.

Prime Min­is­ter Zo­ran Zaev is sell­ing the name-change as a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity for the poor coun­try to move past the row and in­te­grate with the West.

He has the back­ing of a host of Euro­pean and US lead­ers who have trot­ted through Skopje this month to shore up sup­port.

“You know well that a bet­ter deal can­not be made,” Zaev told a crowd this week in one of his fi­nal cam­paign events.

Some Mace­do­nians say they are will­ing to vote “yes” in the hope that NATO and EU mem­ber­ship will in­ject life into a flat econ­omy rav­aged by em­i­gra­tion.

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