Macedonian name-change referendum, 30 September 2018

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Publication Date 30/09/2018
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Summary:

On 30 September 2018 FYR Macedonia held a referendum to consult the population on the proposed name change and consequently the country’s aim to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

The voter turnout did not meet the set threshold of 50%, as only 35% of the population voted in the referendum. A large majority of 91.3%, of the people that voted, favoured the name change, while only 5.7% opposed to the name change. The low voter turnout can be explained by opponents urging voters not to take part in the referendum.

Further information:

The referendum preceded an agreement made by the Greek and FYR Macedonia governments on 12 June 2018. The agreement solved the long dispute with Greece and proposed the designation of 'Republic of North Macedonia' to rename the Balkan country. The name dispute with Greece has prevented FYR Macedonia from advancing its EU and NATO aspiration; as Greece would veto membership for both the EU and NATO.

Even though the referendum was not legally binding, lawmakers promised to accept the outcome of the referendum. In contrast, the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of FYR Macedonia expressed he would proceed with the name change regardless of the referendum.

The agreement and the referendum had met opposition from various sides. The President of FYR Macedonia, Gjorge Ivanov, was opposed to the agreement with Greece as well as to the referendum. Also, Russia expressed concerns on the application of the referendum.

Related Link(s)
Commentary and Analysis
ECFR: Commentary, 28.09.18: Macedonia’s looming war of interpretations https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_macedonias_looming_war_of_interpretations
LSE European Institute: EuroppBlog, 22.10.18: Symbolic identities: Understanding the Macedonia name dispute and its implications for EU politics http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/10/22/symbolic-identities-understanding-the-macedonia-name-dispute-and-its-implications-for-eu-politics/
Euro|topics, 27.09.18: Macedonia: vote on solution to name dispute https://www.eurotopics.net/en/207201/
EurActiv, 28.09.18: The Brief, powered by AmCham EU – Spare a thought for (Northern) Macedonia https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/the-brief-powered-by-amcham-eu-spare-a-thought-for-northern-macedonia/
EurActiv, 28.09.18: Macedonia to accept referendum as valid even with low turnout https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/macedonia-to-accept-referendum-as-valid-even-with-low-turnout/
Politico, 29.09.18: Macedonia’s ultra-important referendum https://www.politico.eu/article/macedonias-ultra-important-referendum-greece-footbal-thessaloniki-ivan-savvidis/
Politico, 02.10.18: Macedonia’s messy referendum puts name deal at risk https://www.politico.eu/article/macedonian-leader-zoran-zaev-calls-on-mps-to-back-name-change-north-macedonia-after-low-turnout-in-vote-referendum/
EurActiv, 01.10.18: EU and NATO hail Macedonia’s referendum result despite low turnout https://www.euractiv.com/section/all/news/eu-and-nato-welcome-macedonias-referendum-result-despite-low-turnout/
EurActiv. 02.10.18: Stoltenberg on Macedonia: NATO’s door is open, but… https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/stoltenberg-on-macedonia-natos-door-is-open-but/
Euro|topics, 02.10.18: Why did Macedonia's name referendum fail? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/207371/
OSCE, 16.08.18: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Referendum, 30 September 2018: Needs Assessment Mission Report https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/fyrom/390800
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 02.10.18: FYR Macedonia’s Name Referendum Is Another Public Setback for the EU https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/fyr-macedonia-s-name-referendum-another-public-setback-eu
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 02.10.18: Why Macedonia’s Failed Vote Matters https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/77393

News
EurActiv, 03.08.18: Controversy in Greece: did New Democracy have secret contacts with Zaev? https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/controversy-in-greece-did-new-democracy-have-secret-contacts-with-zaev/
Reuters, 17.09.18: U.S. Defense Secretary warns of Russian meddling in Macedonia referendum https://www.reuters.com/article/us-macedonia-usa/u-s-defense-secretary-warns-of-russian-meddling-in-macedonia-referendum-idUSKCN1LX0ER
EUobserver, 28.09.18: Macedonia president attacks pro-EU referendum at UN https://euobserver.com/tickers/142974
European views, 01.10.18: Uncertainty Reigns in Macedonia in Wake of Failed Name Change Referendum https://www.european-views.com/in-the-neighborhood/uncertainty-reigns-in-macedonia-in-wake-of-failed-name-change-referendum/
Reuters, 30.09.18: Macedonia leader vows to press on with name change despite referendum failure https://www.reuters.com/article/us-macedonia-referendum/macedonians-vote-on-whether-to-change-countrys-name-idUSKCN1M90U1
EurActiv, 02.10.18: Moscow slams Macedonia’s ‘forced’ name change vote https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/moscow-slams-macedonias-forced-name-change-vote/
EUobserver, 03.10.18: Russia threatens UN veto against Macedonia name change https://euobserver.com/tickers/143012

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