Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expressed confidence on Monday that the Skoplje-Athens name agreement would be approved at a referendum but warned that he would resign if it did not.
“Yes, I will step down if the referendum in Macedonia does not succeed but I am very sure that it will. I expect huge support and a serious percentage (of support) of 77 to 85 percent, in line with the percentage of people who said they want to join the European Union and NATO,” Zaev told Jedan TV.
“The decision is simple, the road to the EU and NATO is a one-way street,” the Macedonian Prime Minister said, adding that the ruling coalition has not come up with a referendum question yet but expressing confidence that the decision on the country’s new name will be linked to accession to the EU and NATO.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said he has decided not to sign the decree on the name agreement with Greece which has been ratified by the Sobranje (parliament) in Skoplje. In his note to parliament, Ivanov said there is no constitutional basis for the agreement and that its ratification runs counter to the constitution. Ivanov walked out of a meeting with Zaev called to inform him of the agreement, saying he would never sign it into law.
The Macedonian government reacted to Ivanov’s decision saying it was expected and would not affect the implementation of the agreement. A government spokesman said the will of the people expressed at a referendum which is due to be held in September or October will be binding to all politicians. The agreement will now go back to the Sobranje for a second vote to ratify it after which the president is obliged to sign it under the constitution.
The Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zaev signed the agreement to change the name of the former Yugoslav republic to North Macedonia at a ceremony on the Greek shores of Lake Prespa on June 17.