What to Expect after Macedonia’s Referendum Failed?

Photo: AFP

Macedonia’s accession to the EU and NATO has been questioned because of the results of a referendum that took place the other day.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Macedonian referendum participants voted for the renaming of the country and the EU and NATO membership, the referendum results were not recognized.

According to the Macedonian legislation, for the success of the referendum, at least 50% participation of voters are required, but the voter turnout was 36.8% because of the boycott announced by President Giorgi Ivanov and opposition deputies.

It should be noted that the number of people in the country who have the right to participate in the elections is about one million eight hundred thousand, so it was necessary for the 903,169 voters to participate in the referendum.

Despite such results of the referendum, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who is the main initiator of the country’s renaming and Euro-Atlantic integration, is not going to give up and resign (as he promised) but continues to insist that the results are not so significant. According to him, the issue of Macedonia’s renaming will be solved in the parliament. It is difficult to say whether the parliamentarians will give their consent to rename it or not. Even if the number of votes is secured, the likelihood that the issue is solved is not so high.

Note that the oppositionists, who called on citizens to boycott the referendum (which, judging from the low level of participation, succeeded), are not going to put up with the new PM’s decision. They have described the prime minister’s position as “an attempt to falsify the results of the referendum” and are preparing to fight until the end, claiming that most people are against NATO and EU membership.

In the current situation, the solution to the Macedonian problem is also worrying the neighboring Greece.

The Macedonian and Greek dispute over the country’s name has been going on for 27 years, which has been an obstacle for Macedonia to join the EU and NATO. Greece wants to change the name “Macedonia” because it considers the name of the neighboring country as a territorial encroachment. On this controversial issue, Athens and Skopje recorded progress in June of this year. Zaev and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, agreed on the constitutional name of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, after which the country would be given an opportunity to join the European Union and NATO. 

It is still uncertain whether the issue will be resolved, but it is worth mentioning that neither the Macedonian government nor the opposition are going to make concessions.