A woman rides a bicycle next to a poster "For European Macedonia", on a street in Skopje, Macedonia, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Macedonians will vote Sunday in a referendum on whether to change the country's name to "North Macedonia", a move which would allow the Balkan country to qualify for NATO membership and also pave its way toward the European Union. The banner also reads in Macedonian "It is time for decision" and "A secure future for our children". (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Macedonia or North Macedonia? State readies for crucial vote

September 28, 2018 - 3:45 am

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonians are weighing matters of national identity and national interest as they prepare to decide what their homeland will be called.

Sunday's referendum asks voters if they support changing the Balkan nation's name from Macedonia to North Macedonia. Greece has agreed to drop longstanding objections to neighboring Macedonia's bids to join NATO and eventually the European Union, if the new name is approved.

The proposed prefix might seem minor, but it touches a nerve in the ex-Yugoslav republic that declared independence in 1991.

Opponents in both Macedonia and Greece have accused their governments of conceding too much.

The West has taken keen interest in Sunday's vote. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said there was "no doubt" Russia helped to fund groups opposed to the name change.

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