Macedonian voters held a referendum today on the proposed name change of their country to the Republic of North Macedonia. The voter turnout of fewer than 37% of registered voters renders this referendum invalid according to the Macedonian constitution. This failure is a debacle for the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) – the leading voice for Macedonians outside of Macedonia – urges for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Zaev and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
This referendum was not about the Macedonian people’s willingness to join NATO and the EU – it was about their refusal to change the name Macedonia in order to join these organizations. NATO and EU value principles of democracy and the right to self-determination. Pressuring Macedonia to change its name goes against the foundational principles of NATO and the EU.
The role of Russia, which has historically supported division of geographic Macedonia, cannot be used as a scapegoat for the Macedonian people’s struggle for recognition. Macedonia has been fighting for its right of self-determination for over a century, declaring statehood in 1944 and sovereign independence in 1991 via a referendum.
UMD applauded President Gjorge Ivanov’s United Nations speech where he sharply criticized the Prespa Agreement for giving Greece unlimited power to meddle in Macedonia’s internal affairs thereby putting Macedonia in a subordinate position to its southern neighbor. In direct contradiction to Prime Minister Zaev, President Ivanov denounced the agreement as a violation of fundamental human rights, stating he would not participate in the referendum, which coincides with UMD’s long-standing position.