The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has welcomed the results of the referendum conducted on Sunday to change Macedonia's name to Northern Macedonia and thereby opening the door to NATO and European Union (EU) membership.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday took to Twitter to support the results, writing, "I welcome the yes vote in the referendum. I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity. #NATO's door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed."
The turnout stood at 34 percent, based on data from 85 percent of polling stations. The referendum result will be valid if turnout of eligible voters is over 50 percent.
Result showed 91.3 percent of voters approving the name change referendum, based on data from more than 97 percent of polling stations. However, turnout stood at just 36.8 percent. The referendum result will be valid if turnout of eligible voters is over 50 percent.
Meanwhile, Greece respected the decision of citizens. Sputnik International quoted the Greek Foreign Ministry as saying," The results of the referendum in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which are consultative and not part of the binding terms of the Prespa agreement, are controversial. The "Yes" [vote] has a significant lead but without the required turnout. A large part of the society of the neighboring country has supported the agreement. But a considerable part of it treated it with skepticism. Greece respects the decision of citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced the polling a "success for democracy and for a European Macedonia." He further added that if the final result is positive, the name of the country will be changed.
Since 1991, Skopje and Athens had been at the loggerheads over the former Yugoslav republic's name, arguing that the name Macedonia opened way for territorial claims in northern Greece where there is a province of the same name. Greece had also blocked Macedonia from joining the EU and NATO.
However, in June, both the countries reached a negotiation and signed an agreement in which Macedonia agreed to change its name to Northern Macedonia while Greece assured to end its veto on former's accession to NATO and the EU.