Macedonia president slams 'unfair' EU after referendum

Prague (AFP) –


Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov slammed the EU as "unfair" on Thursday after a referendum to change the country's name, which had been a condition for its EU and NATO entry.

More than 90 percent of Macedonians on Sunday voted to rename the country North Macedonia and end a decades-long dispute with Greece, but the referendum was marred by low turnout.

The government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev took the result as a boost to its campaign to join the EU and NATO, but opponents including Ivanov cried foul.

"The fact is we had a failed referendum," Ivanov said during a visit to Prague, slamming the EU for applying double standards.

He said other countries with unresolved bilateral ties were already EU members, naming Slovenia and Croatia as examples.

"They were allowed to join the EU -- Macedonia was not even allowed to start entry talks," he said after meeting his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman. "The EU has so far treated Macedonia unfairly."

Greece has its own northern province named Macedonia and has accused its northern neighbour of territorial ambitions.

Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed in June on the name North Macedonia to end the dispute.

In return for adopting the new name, Athens would drop its long-standing objections to the Balkan country joining the European Union and NATO.

But Ivanov slammed Zaev for making the deal without his knowledge.

"EU and NATO entry cannot be an alibi for a poor deal between Macedonia and Greece," he said.

"You can't adopt a deal that is subject to a referendum without national consensus."

The government has given itself a week to garner parliamentary support for the name change. If it fails, Macedonia faces the prospect of early elections.