Ahead of Skopje referendum, Trump expresses support for Prespes agreement


US President Donald Trump joined the ranks of international leaders who are supporting the name deal signed by Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the Prespes lake region in June, noting that "it paves the way for Macedonia's membership in both NATO and the EU."

In a message to his counterpart Gjorge Ivanov on the occasion of FYROM’s independence day Saturday, Trump described the deal as a “historic” one that will boost security, stability and prosperity in the entire region.

Trump said many things happened this year that Skopje should take pride in, citing the name deal signed in June under which FYROM will be called North Macedonia.

“The historic Prespa agreement resolves the long-standing name issue with Greece and paves the way for Macedonia’s membership in both NATO and the European Union,” he said.

He added that “the United States stands ready to support Macedonia, especially with respect to upcoming discussions on your membership in NATO.”

He made his remarks in a statement released by the US Embassy in Skopje ahead of the referendum on the name deal in FYROM on September 30.

FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has embarked on an international campaign to solicit the necessary support to show voters in his country that the deal will pave the way to Europe and NATO.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who visited Skopje Thursday, said that without the deal’s approval in the referendum, FYROM will not be able to join the alliance.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to join the international community, to become a member of NATO, to become a member of the EU, but for this you have to agree with the name agreement,” he said

NATO invited Skopje to begin accession talks with the alliance in June, but the country will also have to adopt constitutional changes in order for membership talks to be finalized.

Support for the deal is also expected from Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who arrives in Skopje Friday, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend independence day celebrations in the FYROM capital Saturday.