By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Ahead of the historic referendum on the deal with Greece, Macedonians are increasingly optimistic about joining NATO and the EU, an opinion poll published on Wednesday shows.
A nationwide survey by the International Republican Institute, IRI, shows that Macedonia’s optimism and support for joining NATO and the EU has increased ahead of the September 30 referendum on the country’s “name” deal with Greece.
An absolute majority of respondents, 57 percent, said that they favoured entering the EU and NATO under the country’s newly agreed name, Republic of North Macedonia.
The same proportion, 57 percent, believe the benefits of EU accession also justify acceptance of the new name.
At the opposite end, 38 percent of people replied negatively, while 5 percent declined to answer.
“As Macedonia approaches this important referendum, support for a compromise solution on the name dispute that opens the door to EU and NATO membership indicates a strong preference for transatlantic institutions,” said IRI’s Acting Regional Director for Europe, Paul McCarthy.
Under the so-called “name” agreement with Greece, signed this summer, Macedonia agreed to change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, while Greece agreed to lift its long-standing veto on Macedonia’s NATO and EU integration.
But for the deal on this dispute to be fully implemented, Macedonians must show they support it in a referendum due on September 30.
When asked how would they vote in the referendum, 49 percent said they would vote in favour of the agreement, compared to 22 per cent who said they would vote against.
Another 16 percent said they would not vote in the referendum, while 13 per cent either refused to answer or said they were undecided.
The survey carried out from June 28 to July 15 also notes an increase in support for EU and NATO membership.
Those in favour of Macedonia becoming a member of the EU rose to 83 percent—a 6-percent increase from August 2017 and an 11-percent increase from March 2017.
Support for NATO also remains strong at 77 percent. This is a slight 2-percent increase from August 2017 and a 6-per cent increase from March 2017.
Most respondents, 35 percent, said they think the country will join the EU in the next one to five years, while 27 percent think it will happen in the next six to ten years and 17 percent think it could take more than ten years. Some 14 percent said it will never happen.
An additional 7 percent said they don’t know.
This survey was conducted on behalf of IRI’s Center for Insights in Survey Research by GfK Skopje market research firm, and was supported by the United States Agency for International Development.
Data were collected through face-to-face interviews on a representative sample of 1,100 respondents aged 18 and over. The response rate was 69 percent.
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