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After Greek Deal, FYROM Premier Sets Wording for North Macedonia Referendum

Αssociated press

FILE - FYROM's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said a referendum question in the autumn will tie changing his country’s name to North Macedonia to getting into NATO and European Union hopes.

Greek anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras agreed to give away the name of the ancient abutting Greek province of Macedonia to let FYROM be called North Macedonia and as Greece removed vetoes on its neighbor getting into NATO and the EU.

FYROM’s Parliament has twice approved the deal, the second after the country’s President Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign it. He is now obliged to do so but hasn’t yet complied and the referendum will follow.

Greek lawmakers – with Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos opposed – won’t take up a ratification vote until likely early in 2019.

NATO has extended an invitation to FYROM to join but said it is conditional on all parties approving the deal, which was brokered by United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for nearly two decades to find an answer before resuming negotiations this year after a three-year break.

That was done amid speculation the United States wanted FYROM in NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans and has seen the previously anti-American Tsipras, who said he would take Greece out of NATO and not let the US keep a Naval base on Crete, now working to hep the alliance.

After meeting with political leaders, Zaev said the question on the ballot will read: "Are you in favor of membership in the European Union and NATO by accepting the deal between the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Greece?"

While he said it “consultative” and advisory, a possibility allowed for under the country's law for referenda, he said he will abide by the decision and that, “The people's say will be final for all political parties." If it fails, he said he would resign.

The leader of the main conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, Hristijan Mickoski, walked out of the meeting, demanding another round of talks. More discussions were planned for July 19.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)