Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry has reacted to the outcome of the September 30 referendum in Macedonia by calling on that country’s “entire political elite” to show maturity and find a way to solve the difficult problems.
The question in the referendum was: “Are you in favour of the country’s accession to the Nato and EU by accepting the agreement signed between Macedonia and Greece?”
Results showed a large majority answering “yes” to the deal with Athens on changing the former Yugoslav republic’s name to “Republic of North Macedonia”, but turnout was about 36 per cent, well below the 50 per cent threshold required for the referendum to be valid.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has vowed to take the issue to the country’s Parliament, which would have to vote by a two-thirds majority for the constitutional changes to bring the name deal into effect to be approved. The opposition that campaigned for a boycott of the referendum is seen as unlikely to assist in securing this majority. It says that Zaev’s government has lost legitimacy.
Zaev said on the night of September 30, after the results began to emerge, that if there was no agreement in Parliament in Skopje to back the name change, he would take the country to early elections.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said on October 1 that in the referendum, citizens of Macedonia had a free choice “and more than 90 per cent of those who voted in this consultative referendum explicitly expressed the desire for the country to be part of the European and Euro-Atlantic community”.
Their voice should not be ignored, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said.
It called on Macedonia’s political elite to show maturity and find a way to solve the difficult problems, noting that at stake was the future of the state and its citizens.
The vast majority of the citizens of the neighbouring country were in favour of membership of the EU and Nato.
Losing time would not benefit either the country or the region, the statement said.
“The Republic of Bulgaria will continue its support for our brothers and sisters from the Republic of Macedonia and the integration of the country into the EU and Nato,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Relations between Sofia and Skopje have warmed since the ratification by both countries’ legislatures of a long-awaited good neighbourliness treaty, signed by the respective prime ministers in August 2017.