Macedonia launches campaigning on name change referendum

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Campaigning is officially starting in Macedonia for a Sept. 30 referendum on changing the country's name, a move which would allow the Balkan country to qualify for NATO membership and pave its way to the European Union.

The start of the campaign period Monday sees politicians able to hold speeches and rallies, and begin media advertising for the referendum.

Macedonians will vote on a proposal to change the former Yugoslav republic's name to North Macedonia, ending a long-running dispute with neighbor and NATO member Greece which saw use of the term "Macedonia" as a claim on its own province of the same name.

The proposed change met with fierce criticism in the two countries, with opponents on both sides accusing their governments of conceding too much to the other country.