Macedonia to vote on new name to end Greek row
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.