German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Saturday to support the Balkan country’s government ahead of the September 30 referendum on the name agreement with Greece.
The change in the country’s name to “North Macedonia”, as agreed with Athens, will help the country qualify for NATO and EU membership.
The name change would end a FYROM dispute with Greece, a NATO ally, which has accused the Balkan nation of trying to make territorial and heritage claims of its own northern region of Macedonia.
“This is a historic chance that a generation has only once. Don’t stay at home: Seize the democratic opportunity to say what you think about the future of your country,” Merkel said at a joint news conference with FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
Greece and FYROM agreed on the “North Macedonia” name in June, an issue that has part of the FYROM population in disagreement.
Greece has demanded some constitutional agreements as a condition to sign the deal, with the FYROM administration agreeing to the changes. Skopje will hold a referendum on September 30 for the people’s approval to change the FYROM constitution.
FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov opposes the Athens – Skopje agreement and rallies for a “No” in the upcoming referendum.
On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump sent a written message to Ivanov saying: “The Agreement and Macedonia’s membership in NATO will bolster security, stability, and prosperity throughout the entire region.”
So far polls indicate that FYROM citizens are in favor of the deal, but it is uncertain whether the turnout will meet the required 50 percent threshold.