European Union urges all sides to 'respect' Macedonia name change vote

Macedonia Macedonia referendum Macedonia name change North Macedonia Macedonia NATO membership Macedonia EU membership Greece Macedonia dispute world news indian express

Initial returns showed that 91 percent voted in favor of the agreement.

He did not however refer to the vote's extremely low turnout, in which only a third of the electorate voted. Mattis said there was "no doubt" that Moscow had funded groups inside Macedonia to campaign against the name change. Only after those changes are approved by parliament does the deal face ratification in Greece.

"The climate of nationalism and suspicion, daily fake news, and extreme fanaticism unfortunately do not allow a sober assessment of the great benefits of the agreement", the Greek foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Protesters shout out slogans about boycotting the referendum on changing the country's name that would open the way for it to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union in Skopje, Macedonia September 30, 2018. "I expect a massive vote, a huge turnout to confirm the multiethnic nature of this country and the political unity of this country".

But only 36.5 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Opponents to the name change had called for a boycott of the vote.

Zaev had earlier voiced confidence that the country would support a yes vote.

United States defence secretary Jim Mattis scolded the Kremlin on Monday (17 September) amid concerns that Russian Federation is funding groups to influence the upcoming crucial vote on Macedonia's name change, which should open the door to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union membership.

Those opposing the deal had urged voters to boycott the referendum. The critics included President Gjorge Ivanov, who called the agreement with Greece a "flagrant violation of sovereignty".

The question on the referendum ballot read: "Are you for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union membership with acceptance of the agreement with Greece". Referendum opponents celebrated the weak turnout, chanting "Macedonia" outside Parliament in the capital, Skopje. Turnout was below 29 percent two hours before polls were due to close.

When Yugoslavia broke up Macedonia declared its independence and took the name Republic of Macedonia, Greece objected as its northern region is also called Macedonia.

But the agreement has faced vocal opposition on both sides of the border, with detractors accusing their respective governments of conceding too much to the other side.

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"MPs now have an obligation to make Macedonia a better place for all of us", Zaev told reporters late on Sunday.

Under the Macedonian constitution, referenda must have a turnout of over 50% for the result to be valid, but the government had previously described Sunday's vote as non-binding, meaning it could take the result as an accurate reflection of public opinion regardless of the turnout. "We are likely heading towards early elections and Macedonia does not have time for that".

"I congratulate those citizens who voted in today's consultative referendum and made use of their democratic freedoms", EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a statement.

The referendum was a chance to ditch the long-winded and inelegant name that Macedonians have been saddled with for the last 27 years - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM for short.

- This corrects the name of the election chief to Derkoski.

If Macedonians vote "Yes", it would clear the way for the next steps needed to complete the deal with Greece and put the country on the path to becoming NATO's 30th member.

Zaev said Macedonians "are deciding the fate of our country".

Zaev and his coalition partners from the ethnic Albanian minority will need at least a dozen MPs from the opposition to back the move.

Alexander was from a Hellenistic culture, so Greeks argue that the Slavic-speaking Macedonians have no right to claim his heritage in addition to arguing that the name change would suggest territorial aspirations.

Opposition VMRO-DPMNE party spokesman Ivo Kotevski criticized the name deal as something that would force Macedonians to give up their national identity.

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