Macedonia rebuffs name referendum claims

13:39, October 10, 2009      

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The Macedonian government on Friday rebuffed media claims that it was mulling a referendum on whether to change the country's name for a speedy entrance into the EU and NATO.

This is "fiction" and "has nothing to do with the reality", the government said in a statement.

Athens has been opposed to its neighbor being called the "Republic of Macedonia," arguing that the name implies a territorial claim over a Greek northern province also called Macedonia.

Last year, Athens blocked Skopje's NATO accession because of the row and threatened to do the same with Skopje's EU aspiration spending a solution.

"Macedonia will change its name if it gets firm promise and a date for entry in the EU and NATO", local Vest daily wrote on Thursday citing an "unnamed diplomat."

The daily also said that the government is mulling a referendum question that would validate such a move by asking the people whether they "support EU and NATO entrance under the name Northern Republic of Macedonia".

In ongoing U.N. sponsored talks concerning the name issue, Athens has insisted on a compound name with a geographic qualifier such as "Northern" that would make a distinction between the state and the Greek province.

Skopje, on the other hand, has argued that a name change could mean intrusion into country's identity.

Macedonia's main ruling party, the center right VMRO DPMNE, in its election platform for last year's snap polls, envisaged a referendum on the name issue if the country strikes a possible deal with Greece.

Source: Xinhua
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