EU enlargement chief urges Macedonians to back name deal

Posted at 6:03 AM, Sep 18, 2018

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — The official in charge of European Union’s enlargement negotiations has urged Macedonians to vote in a referendum this month on renaming their country “North Macedonia,” a change that could pave the way for its EU and NATO accession.

Johannes Hahn says the Sept. 30 vote is an “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity that will deeply affect Macedonians’ daily life and future.

Hahn spoke Tuesday after talks in Skopje with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

The name deal would end a long dispute with neighboring Greece, which has blocked Macedonia’s NATO accession, seen as a key step to reduce Russian influence in the Balkans.

Dozens of western officials including German chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have visited Skopje in recent weeks to encourage a “yes” vote.