FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has urged deputies to “look into the future” as parliament opened a debate on proposed constitutional amendments to change the country’s name to “North Macedonia” and settle its dispute with Greece.
“Let’s show the world that above all of our domestic political misunderstandings and conflicts, we have a joint interest: the future of our country,” Zaev told parliament overnight and also warned that rejecting the change would leave FYROM poor and isolated.
In June, Zaev and his Greek counterpart Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed a deal under which Athens agreed to lift its objections to the former Yugoslav republic joining both NATO and the EU in exchange for the country changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.
A subsequent September 30 national referendum on the issue was declared invalid because of an insufficient turnout, as only 34 percent of voters participated, well below the minimum 50 percent threshold needed.
Despite the failed referendum, Zaev vowed to keep pushing for a change to the Balkan nation’s name and amend the constitution as required by the deal with Greece.
In his remarks to parliament, he said that rejecting the deal with Greece would leave FYROM in “isolation, poverty, and uncertainty.”
“The nation’s direction is NATO and the European Union, and I think that all 120 deputies have the same conviction, but we differ how we can achieve it,” said Ilija Dimovski of the nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, which has campaigned against the name change.
Before the start of the debate in parliament, a group of some 25 opponents of the name change staged a protest outside the parliament building.
After hours of discussions, lawmakers ended their first day of debate without reaching a decision on whether to approve a deal. The session was set to resume in the morning of October 16.
The debate could last for up to 10 days.