Hundreds Rally In Macedonian Capital For Second Night
RFE/RL's Balkan Service June 18, 2018
SKOPJE-- Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in the Macedonia capital for a second night, as nationalists continued to vent anger over a landmark agreement to rename the country.
Crowds gathered in the center of Skopje on June 18, waving national flags, chanting "Macedonia!" and calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. They also chanted the name of President Gjorge Ivanov, who has pledged to veto the deal if it is ratified by parliament.
There were no immediate reports of arrests or violence.
The Interior Ministry said that seven police officers and two other people were injured in violence a day earlier, which erupted on the day that foreign ministers from Macedonia and Greece signed the historic agreement.
The deal, which changes the country's formal name to the Republic of North Macedonia, ends a 27-year dispute between Athens and Skopje and paves the way for Macedonia to begin membership talks with the European Union and NATO.
Nationalists in both countries bitterly oppose the change.
Earlier in the day, the government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev adopted a draft law on ratifying the agreement. Lawmakers are scheduled to start debating the text the upcoming week, before it goes to a referendum later this year.
The name dispute dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region.
Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Greece, an EU and NATO member, has also cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations.
According to some polls, about 45 percent of Macedonians would sacrifice NATO and EU membership to keep the Macedonia name, while nine out of 10 ethnic Albanians -- who make up more than one-quarter of the country's 2.1 million population -- would not.
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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