By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Macedonian voters will vote on Sunday in a landmark deal with Greece to resolve a name dispute and bring the country deeper into the international fold.
The question put to voters in the referendum says: "Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?"
The vote follows the Macedonian and Greek governments reaching a deal in June requiring Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and also Greece to drop its opposition to Macedonia's accession to both NATO and the European Union.
Greece, a member of both for decades, has long opposed Macedonia's official name, as it has a province called Macedonia in the north of the country.
Due to Athens' objections, the dispute was one of the main obstacles to Macedonia's ambitions to join NATO and the EU.
Negotiations between Macedonia and Greece have recently picked up pace as a new government in Skopje sought progress in its bid to join the two organizations.
Although the result of the Sept. 30 referendum will not be binding, the government said it will abide by the will of the citizens in this vote.
-2 countries' parliaments must okay
This will be the third-ever referendum for Macedonia, one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a population of a little over 2 million. Just over 1.8 million voters have the right to vote on the measure, and more than half must vote for the referendum to be valid.
Following the referendum, at least two-thirds or 81 of Macedonia’s 120 parliamentary deputies must support it to ratify the constitutional changes.
After the completion of these processes in Macedonia, the agreement must also be approved by Greece’s parliament.
The name issue has kept Macedonia from joining the EU and NATO since its independence in 1991.
Macedonia's international recognition was finalized in April 1993, when the country was unanimously adopted as a member of the UN General Assembly, but was admitted as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to pressure by Greece.
Despite the dispute between Athens and Skopje, many countries, including Turkey, recognize the country as Macedonia.