Macedonia prepares to hold historical referendum

‘This is a referendum on our second independence,’ says Macedonia’s prime minister

Macedonia prepares to hold historical referendum

Macedonia is preparing to hold a historic referendum Sunday on the country’s "second independence.”

It follows the signing of the Prespa Agreement in June by the Macedonian and Greek governments which requires Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece to drop its objection to Macedonia joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and becoming a member of the European Union.

Greece, both a NATO and EU member, has long opposed Macedonia’s official name, as it has a province named Macedonia in the country’s north.

Due to Athens’ objection, the dispute has been one of the main obstacles to Macedonia’s ambitions to join NATO and the EU.

Negotiations between Macedonia and Greece had recently picked up pace as the new government in Skopje sought progress in its bid to join the two organizations.

The wording of the question being put to voters is telling: "Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?"

The referendum on Sunday will be the third in the country’s history. 

The first referendum was held on Sept. 8, 1991, which gave independence to Macedonia from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The question "Are you for a sovereign and independent state of Macedonia with a right to enter any alliance with sovereign states of Yugoslavia?" was approved by 96.4 percent of votes.

The second referendum, held on Nov. 7, 2004, asked voters whether they approved of overturning municipal redistricting plans that had given greater autonomy to ethnic Albanians. The referendum, where only 26.58 percent of the public went to the polling stations, was considered invalid due to insufficient participation.