The S&D Group congratulates the Macedonian citizens for voting in favour of the name change of their county in today’s consultative referendum. While regretting that the turnout was less than 50% for different reasons, we call on the opposition to respect the expressed will of the majority of voters.

“With great impatience we were waiting for the result of today’s vote. We are happy to see that the majority of voters supported the agreement reached in June by Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras on a name change. This was a historic agreement that settles a three decades long dispute between two neighbours and unlocked the door to the European Union and NATO for Skopje,” said S&D leader Udo Bullmann.

“Unfortunately, the turnout of the referendum did not reach 50%. An unprecedented manipulative disinformation campaign has discouraged many people from going to the ballot boxes. Parts of the opposition belonging to the EPP family and the President of the country boycotted the referendum and one more time proved to be opportunistic and short-sighted nationalists. Disgracefully, President Ivanov also called on his countrymen not to take part in deciding on the future of their country. “We are also particularly worried by the reports about Russian interference in the electoral process,” he added.

Bullmann said that he is “particularly worried by the reports about Russian interference in the electoral process. Hundreds of new websites originating outside the country urged voters to boycott the referendum in the weeks leading to the vote. All these reports must be verified.”

S&D spokesperson on foreign affairs Knut Fleckenstein added:

“The majority of Macedonian voters who went to the ballot boxes said they wanted a European future for the country. I congratulate them on their maturity and sense of responsibility for the country. The name compromise was not easy to accept but they were ready to end the long lasting, damaging conflict with their neighbour Greece. Their choice must be respected.”