Macedonia’s President Lashes Out against EU’s ‘Double Standards’ after Failed Name Referendum
Macedonia should have been allowed to negoatiate for its EU membership in spite of its long-standing name dispute with Greece, Ivanov deems.
Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov has slammed what he sees as “double standards” on part of the EU and “unfair” treatment of his country’s application for membership over the still standing name dispute with Greece.
Ivanov’s comments come in the wake of Sunday’s referendum in which over 90% of those who voted supported changing Macedonia’s name to “North Macedonia” so as to resolve the decades-old dispute with Greece, and thus open the road to starting EU accession talks.
The referendum, however, failed to reach the required 50% threshold and thus failed, with Ivanov and the party he is affiliated with, the opposition nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, playing a key role in that as they urged their supporters to boycott the vote.
Greece has been vetoing Macedonia’s bids to join the EU and NATO since it insists the name of the former Yugoslav republic threatens its national integrity as northern Greek administrative districts are also named “Macedonia”.
A breakthrough in the name dispute was achieved in June 2018, when Macedonia’s Socialist Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras announced they had reached a compromise solution with the name “Republic of North Macedonia”.
With the failure of the referendum, however, Macedonia remains gripped by uncertainty regarding its chances to the start talks with the EU any time soon.
“The fact is we had a failed referendum,” Macedonian President Ivanov said during a visit to Prague, as cited by AFP and France24.
He argued the name dispute with Greece should not have been an issue preventing Macedonia’s bid to join the EU in the first place since other countries with unresolved bilateral ties were already EU members such as Slovenia and Croatia.
“They were allowed to join the EU – Macedonia was not even allowed to start entry talks,” he said after meeting his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman.
“The EU has so far treated Macedonia unfairly,” Ivanov insisted while also slamming Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for making the name deal with Greece without his knowledge.
“EU and NATO entry cannot be an alibi for a poor deal between Macedonia and Greece,” Macedonia’s President argued.
“You can’t adopt a deal that is subject to a referendum without national consensus,” he said.
Zaev’s Cabinet has given itself a week to try to convince several MPs from the opposition nationalist VMRO-DPMNE to back the county’s name in a Parliament vote.
The ruling coalition of the Social Democrats and ethnic Albanians is 8 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for the decision. If it fails to get them, Zaev has vowed to call early elections.
(Banner image: Flickr)