Macedonian name-change referendum, 30 September 2018

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Publication Date 30/09/2018
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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
LSE European Institute: EuroppBlog, 22.10.18: 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
EurActiv, 28.09.18: 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
Politico, 29.09.18: Macedonia’s ultra-important referendum
Politico, 02.10.18: Macedonia’s messy referendum puts name deal at risk
EurActiv, 01.10.18: EU and NATO hail Macedonia’s referendum result despite low turnout
EurActiv. 02.10.18: Stoltenberg on Macedonia: NATO’s door is open, but…
Euro|topics, 02.10.18: Why did Macedonia's name referendum fail?
OSCE, 16.08.18: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Referendum, 30 September 2018: Needs Assessment Mission Report
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 02.10.18: FYR Macedonia’s Name Referendum Is Another Public Setback for the EU
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 02.10.18: Why Macedonia’s Failed Vote Matters

EurActiv, 03.08.18: 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
EUobserver, 28.09.18: Macedonia president attacks pro-EU referendum at UN
European views, 01.10.18: 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
EurActiv, 02.10.18: Moscow slams Macedonia’s ‘forced’ name change vote
EUobserver, 03.10.18: Russia threatens UN veto against Macedonia name change

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