By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonians will have the chance to give their opinion about the historic ‘name’ agreement with neighbouring Greece on September 30, the country’s parliament decided on Monday.
Sixty-seven of the 120 MPs in Macedonia’s parliament voted in favour of holding a referendum on the country’s agreement with Greece on September 30 which – if successful – will hopefully expedite Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
While MPs from the ruling parties and some opposition parties strongly supported the referendum, MPs from the main opposition VMRO DPMNE party were absent from the session, however.
“I know the decision is not easy. I know this issue is serious and at moments painful for all of us. But EU and NATO is the only alternative … for Macedonia’s prosperity,” MP Tomislav Tuntev, from the main ruling Social Democratic Party, said in parliament, speaking in the name of the legislators who had submitted the referendum initiative.
The parliamentary majority decided to push for the referendum after all attempts to bring the opposition on board had failed. The opposition was also urged to call on its supporters to vote, even if they oppose the “name” deal with Greece.
The opposition’s participation may well be crucial for achieving the required turnout threshold of 50 per cent.
The VMRO DPMNE party, which deems the agreement with Greece an act of national capitulation, disputed the announced referendum question, which will be: “Do you support EU and NATO membership by accepting the deal between Macedonia and Greece?”
It called the question manipulative, and said that in order for it to back participation at the plebiscite, the “name” agreement with Greece should not be linked with the country’s EU and NATO membership bids.
A principal aim of the agreement with Greece, signed on June 17, is to ensure that Greece ends its longstanding blockade of Macedonia’s membership of NATO and the EU.
Under the deal, Macedonia agreed to change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, while Greece agreed to lift its veto on Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration.
For the deal to be fully implemented, however, Macedonians must show they support it in a referendum.