Around 36.8 percent of the 1.8 million voters in Macedonia took part in the referendum on a new name for the country. After counting almost all votes, 91.3 percent of the participating voters voted to change the name to “Northern Macedonia”. The referendum would only have ben valid if the voter turnout had exceeded 50 percent. However, around 400,000 of the 1.8 million voters live abroad.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented:
“The Macedonian parliament must now decide how to deal with this result. With regard to voter turnout, it should not be forgotten that almost a quarter of all voters live abroad. Europe should accommodate the pro-European Macedonians after the referendum. In particular, many young Macedonians hope for a better future in Europe. EU accession negotiations should begin next year as planned, even though Macedonia is currently still a long way from fulfilling the rule of law criteria for accession. Especially the EPP and Manfred Weber should now send a clear positive signal to Macedonia.
With their boycott of the referendum, the Macedonian Christian Democrats have done a disservice to the aim of strengthening ties with Europe. With their protest against the name change in Macedonia, the Greek Christian Democrats have attacked the Greek government in a populist and short-sighted manner. It would be economically and politically tragic for Greece and Macedonia if the solution found in the unfortunate name dispute failed after all. The leadership of the EPP must no longer duck away. Angela Merkel has given the pro-Europeans in Macedonia her backing, and the EPP should now do the same. Macedonia’s European future must not be further obstructed by a bilateral dispute.”