17:53 GMT +317 October 2018
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    President of the Republic of Macedonia Gorge Ivanov (File)

    Macedonian President Pledges to Boycott 'Harmful' Referendum on Name Deal

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    BELGRADE (Sputnik) - Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov announced that he would boycott the upcoming referendum on the bilateral deal with Greece on the country’s renaming.

    Ivanov has been consistently opposing the deal. Back in June, he refused to sign the bill on the agreement into law, saying that he would not advocate the "damaging" deal, which, according to him, violates Macedonian law. The Macedonian parliament later adopted the agreement by a majority of votes.

    READ MORE: EU Commission: Macedonia's Name Vote Should Be Free From Foreign Influence

    "As for me, I already voted 27 years ago – on September 8, 1991 [at the referendum on the country's independence]. I do not backtrack on my decision. Therefore, I will not go to the polls on September 30," Ivanov said, addressing Macedonian diaspora in the US city of Detroit on Saturday, with the video of his speech posted on the president's Facebook page.

    According to Ivanov, this agreement not only changes the name of the country, it creates a "new semi-sovereign state … with a new internal and international legal identity."

    In presence of US lawmakers Paul Mitchell from the Republican Party and Deborah Ann Dingell from the Democratic Party, who also attended his meeting with the diaspora, Ivanov pointed to the need for anti-corruption fight in the country as a necessary prerequisite for the cession to NATO and the European Union.

    "Even with the adoption of the harmful Greek treaty and [relevant] constitutional amendments, membership in NATO and the European Union will not come automatically," the president stressed.

    On June 17, Greek and Macedonian foreign ministers signed an agreement on the former Yugoslav Republic's renaming to the Republic of North Macedonia, following a decades-long dispute over the use of "Macedonia," which Greece has been objecting to as this is also the name of one of its regions. FYROM will hold a referendum on the issue on September 30.

    The country’s new constitutional name will open the way for Macedonia’s accession to the European Union and NATO, which has long been blocked by Athens over concerns that the neighboring country might have territorial claims to Greece’s own region of the same name.

    Related:

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    NATO Ready to Welcome Macedonia as New Member - Secretary General
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    referendum, European Union, Gjorge Ivanov, Macedonia
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