Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Thursday urged the citizens of the Balkan country to take part in Sunday’s referendum and approve a name change deal reached with neighboring Greece in June that will unlock membership of the EU and NATO.
“On Sunday you will face a historic decision. You should make a choice. Remember, it is not a choice between two political parties. It is a choice for your future, the future of your country,” Zaev said in a recorded video message.
“We are close to fulfilling this dream, this aspiration of ours. On September 30, each and every one of us should put a brick in the construction of a better Macedonian future – to make ourselves helpful in becoming a member of the most powerful security alliance – NATO – and a full-fledged member in the strongest economic community in the world – the European Union,” he said.
Zaev said he was aware the country had to make a concession by accepting a geographical qualifier to the name “Macedonia.”
“But no one can, and no one will ever deny our identity,” he said.
“The proud Macedonian country secured full recognition of our Macedonian nation, our language, our heritage. Our Macedonian language is protected. Our Macedonian identity is protected forever,” Zaev said.
“We are Macedonians and we will be forever Macedonians.”
A recent poll by FYROM’s Telma TV found 57 percent of respondents planning to vote on Sunday. Of those, 70 percent said they would endorse the deal which will change the country’s official name to “Republic of North Macedonia.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, FYROM President President Gjorge Ivanov urged his compatriots not to vote on Sunday, calling the name change a “noose” and a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”