Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, refused on Tuesday to sign the agreement with Greece to rename the country to “Republic of Northern Macedonia”.
The decision was expected, as Gjorgje Ivanov, who is close to the nationalist right, was a staunch opponent of any compromise with the Greek’s. The law must now return to Parliament, where it has already been ratified. If the latter adopts it again, the Macedonian president will no longer be able constitutionally to oppose it.
“In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, I decided not to sign the law on the ratification of the agreement with Greece. The agreement makes Macedonia dependent on a third state, Greece” the president said in a statement released on Tuesday in Skopje.
Once validated again, the agreement will be submitted to a referendum whose date has not been set. The nationalist right has called for a vote “no”.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, one of the architects of the agreement, said he would resign if the “yes” was defeated.
As the final step to endorse the new name, a constitutional amendment will have to be validated again by Parliament, but by a two-thirds majority. Zoran Zaev’s government does not currently have this majority.
In exchange for this agreement, Skopje is hoping for a swift opening of accession negotiations with the European Union, as well as an invitation to join NATO.
However, if the Macedonian government fails to pass the constitutional revision, “the invitation [to join] NATO is cancelled and negotiations with the EU do not move,” warned Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Greece denies its smaller neighbour the use of the name of “Macedonia”, without additional geographical attribution, because it is the same that of a province in northern Greece.