Dimitrov: National consensus and holding of referendum on name issue

It is necessary to build a national consensus over name issue and many of those elements of the national consensus are not clear right now, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said Tuesday.

“We are working intensively on building a consensus, which should include citizens, political factors, institutions, all. The process is open and lasts. It is important that this process to be completed, because in such a way Macedonia’s position will be stronger,” Dimitrov said.

He stressed this at Tuesday’s briefing on Macedonia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, with Florian Bieber, Professor of Southeast European History and Politics and Director of the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz, Austria and Coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).

Dimitrov said that name issue is of such nature that cannot be solved without the citizens.

Commenting the statement by Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi that Parliament has the legitimacy to decide in the direction of resolving and avoid holding of a referendum on the name, Dimitrov said the referendum is an election promise of all major parties.

“The (name) issue is of such nature that if it cannot be resolved sustainably, if the citizens are not asked, if there is no consensus, if there are inter-party battles, our position will weaken,” Dimitrov said.

The statement of ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who said his party will not consent to a name that includes the term “Macedonia,” Dimitrov assessed it as a statement of other century.

“I think that such statements do not lead to a solution, it is a fact that our concern should be what we can do from our side. Our responsibility is to achieve a national consensus. Who and what kind of position has in the government coalition in Greece is their responsibility. This is 2017, we are in Europe and such an attitude is not appropriate and distance us from resolving the problem, Dimitrov said.

He did not discuss about specific proposals, whether name with a geographical qualifier is acceptable for the state officials, by which the identity will be protected, or the mentioned “New Macedonia”, noting that if he discuss about possible proposals in this phase, he can only harm the efforts in that direction.

He expects Macedonia to be included in the Accession Strategy of the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Bieber noted emphasized that the next year offers opportunities for substantial transformation of the region, which stagnated over ten years in relation to the European perspective.

“At our last briefing, we said that this is the moment not only for Macedonia, but also for the region, to renew the enlargement, to recognize the moment. Now there is a chance that this process will no longer be never ending story, but a story with a clear goal and deadline,” Bieber said.

He underlined that the process in the BiEPAG study on Macedonia, is seen through three pillars, the continuation of the domestic reforms, enhancement in regional cooperation and the EU support.

He said that EU has no mechanisms that would force one member state not to influence on entry of a candidate country as in the case of Macedonia in regard to the name dispute with Greece.