Macedonia has been receiving the continuous support and encouragement for the September 30 referendum from strategic partners such as the U.S.A and the EU, but also from neighbor countries. The citizens’ vote is one of the crucial steps towards the implementation of the name agreement with Greece as well as towards NATO membership and the start of EU accession talks.
Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov paid a three-day visit to Washington this week. In the US Department of State, he met with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he also held a series of meetings in the US Senate and the White House. At all meetings with US experts and politicians, he received strong support for Macedonia’s course toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
FM Dimitrov said Macedonia’s efforts have garnered great encouragement.
“The timing of the visit is very indicative,” Dimitrov said. “This meeting, held before the launch of the campaign for the referendum scheduled for Sept. 30, is a message that the U.S. backs Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic course and that it supports the resolution of Macedonia’s last bilateral issue – the Agreement with Greece signed in Prespa.”
“The U.S. supports our strategic efforts to join NATO, as it is good for the region, for us, for the U.S., which is interested mainly in the stability of the Balkans. The main message was a great encouragement,” Dimitrov said.
In the meantime, Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, voiced regret over the lack of national unity in Macedonia about the referendum on the agreement with Greece and urged citizens to exercise their voting rights to shape the country’s future as well as their own.
For Hahn, the referendum is an opportunity for citizens to choose between a future in the EU and isolation, MIA’s Brussels correspondent reported.
“This is a choice between a forward-looking course set towards EU integration with specific benefits for citizens such as the rule of law, drawing in foreign investors, more and better jobs, higher living standards – and a course set towards isolation, stagnation and missing a unique opportunity for improvement and progress in crucial areas,” Hahn said.
The referendum, he went further, is also a choice between holding on to old nationalist concepts or embracing the country’s future, with reforms and with the EU and NATO integration as the final step.
Hahn expressed his hopes that citizens would learn more about the difference their vote makes.
Angela Merkel, as well, voiced Germany’s great support for Macedonia’s referendum, by speaking to PM Zoran Zaev over the phone last week.
Dusan Janjic, president of Belgrade’s Ethnic Relations Forum and one of Serbia’s leading political analysts, said that NATO membership was the crowning point of a country’s statehood.
“The very fact that there’s a referendum on the name issue resolution shows that Macedonia is on the course to stabilization,” Janjic said.
“NATO membership means an entry into a wider system of stability,” Janjic said. “Take for example the NATO membership of ‘tiny’ Montenegro, which was formed in the 19th century as the first Balkan state even before Serbia was a country. You can see now what this means for Macedonia, fighting to round off its own statehood. NATO membership is the crowning point of a country’s process of securing and developing its status of being a state.”