Macedonia Heads for Make-or-Break Name Vote or Snap Election
(Bloomberg) -- The Republic of Macedonia’s parliament is facing a vote that will either help approve a deal opening the way to NATO and European Union entry or trigger an early election.
The former Yugoslav nation is at the center of the struggle between Russia and the West for sway over Europe’s most volatile region. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government is pushing to rename his country to end a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece, which has promised in exchange to lift its veto over Macedonia’s bids to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Greece believes the name ‘Macedonia’ should only apply to its northern province.
Lawmakers started discussions Monday over a constitutional amendment renaming the country of 2 million as ‘the Republic of North Macedonia.’ Complicating the discussion is the result of a Sept. 30 referendum in which a majority of voters backed the name change but very low turnout emboldened the opposition to declare the government’s plan a failure.
“You have to decide whether we’ll win a lot or we’ll lose a lot,” Zaev told lawmakers on Monday. “The real choice is to vote to finally change something, for the European future of our county” or “throw us into isolation and uncertain future.”
Zaev’s coalition lacks the two-thirds majority needed to approve the initiative alone and is vying for votes from opposition lawmakers who consider EU and NATO entry an important goal. The prime minister has threatened to call a snap election before the end of the year if he fails.
Parliamentary backing would trigger a legislative procedure that could take several months before final approval, where another two-thirds majority would be necessary. Zaev is pushing to complete the deal before European Parliament elections in May, when an unpredictable outcome may cloud his country’s integration plan.
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