Macedonians should accept the proposed new name for their country or face isolation, the former Yugoslav republic’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told the AFP.
Zaev warned of instability and isolation if voters in Macedonia reject the new name at a referendum under an agreement with Greece. The agreement, signed by Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, could end decades of a dispute over the name Macedonia.
Greece has claimed since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 that the name of the former Yugoslav republic implies territorial pretensions towards the northern Greek province of the same name, forcing it to use Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as its official name to join the UN. Under the agreement the country would be renamed North Macedonia and Athens would remove any objection to its membership in NATO and the European Union.
Zaev said he is convinced that the referendum will succeed, adding he is not even considering other options. According to a poll conducted in July by the Center for Insights in Survey Research, 57 percent of the polled support the name change. The name change has to be confirmed by a two thirds majority in parliament before Greece ratifies it.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who is on a visit to Macedonia, said in Skopje on Monday that he was there to show US support for Macedonia’s membership in NATO.