IT HAD been billed as the most important vote in the region’s recent history, a referendum in favour of settling a long-standing dispute between Greece and Macedonia. Instead, voters have opened the door to instability and uncertainty. The vote, held on September 30th in Macedonia, which aimed to endorse an historic compromise agreement between the two countries over Macedonia’s name, has instead thrown the deal into question. It is on life support. But Ana Petruseva, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Macedonia, says “it is not dead yet.”
When Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991 Greece objected to its southernmost republic keeping its name as an independent state. Greek governments claimed that the name “Macedonia” implied territorial designs on that part of historic Macedonia which lies in Greece. Over the years it tried several tactics to bring its northern neighbour to heel. In 2008 it in effect vetoed an invitation to Macedonia to join NATO, and in recent years it has prevented Macedonia from opening negotiations on accession to the EU. In June, however, the two governments struck a historic compromise. Greece would no longer wage diplomatic war on Macedonia, which in turn would change its name to North Macedonia.