The referendum in Macedonia was a warning for the EU of the threat posed by anti-European forces in the Western Balkans, Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic said Tuesday.
On Sunday, more than 90 percent of Macedonians who turned out to vote in a referendum backed a change to their country’s name that would clear the path to their joining the EU and NATO.
But turnout was very low, amid calls from nationalists for a boycott, AFP reported.
“I hope that in Brussels and elsewhere, the result of the Macedonian referendum can be understood as a wake-up call and a final warning that we need to carry out a much deeper analysis of our relationship with enlargement policy,” Djukanovic said in an address to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg in eastern France.
“Further enlargement (of the EU) is crucial for the Western Balkans and for Europe,” he said.
Djukanovic spoke after Macedonian voters approved changing the country’s name to “North Macedonia”, in a referendum that was marred by an extremely low turnout, with only a third of the electorate casting ballots.
“I have the impression that the pro-European enthusiasm that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall is stumbling a bit… In the Western Balkan states we are hearing conflicting messages from the rest of Europe about the pace at which enlargement should take place,” he said.
The hesitation on enlargement “fuels the illusions of a number of backward actors… who continue to dream of recomposing the entire region and building and expanding states on a nationalist basis.”
“The referendum in Macedonia is a striking illustration of the problem I am talking about,” he argued, saying that the consultation “was not well enough prepared.”
Approving the new name has been seen as a condition for an EU accession process for Macedonia that Brussels has agreed to engage next year.
But existing accession talks with Serbia begun in 2014 and Montenegro in 2012 have bogged down.
Many of the EU’s historic member states are holding back because of difficulties they feel they have encountered with Poland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, whose accessions they consider to have been too rapid.