Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev says he expects his countrymen will vote for a deal that will rename the country to “North Macedonia” in exchange for Greece’s ending its objections to Macedonia’s eventual membership in NATO and the European Union.
In a VOA interview, he said, “There is no other alternative. I am an optimist primarily because I know my people. They have a history of making smart decisions and this one will be no different.”
Zaev said he wants Macedonia to soon become the 30th member of NATO in order to secure peace, economic prosperity and security for his country, and that Washington strongly supports Macedonia’s NATO aspirations.
“The message was sent yet again that America stands firmly beside Macedonia as an unwavering strategic partner,” Zaev told VOA Macedonian in an exclusive interview following his meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.
Zaev was invited to the White House after working to secure the Prespa Agreement with Greece on the long-standing name issue between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the vice president’s office.
“I am convinced that the United States will stay focused on a Southeast Europe benefiting all the citizens in the region, including the citizens of Macedonia,” said Zaev.
Renaming Macedonia is a key element of a deal with neighboring Greece to end a decades-old dispute. Greece says Macedonia’s current name implies claims on its own northern province of Macedonia, and on its ancient heritage.