Thousands of people have marched in Macedonia’s capital to promote support for changing the country’s name in an upcoming referendum that also could clear the way for Nato membership.
The referendum scheduled for September 30 will seek voter approval of an agreement with Greece to rename the small Balkan nation North Macedonia.
The deal is designed to end a bitter 27-year dispute over rights to the Macedonia title and to remove Greek objections to its northern neighbour becoming a member of Nato and the European Union.
He urged citizens to grasp a historic opportunity and back the name deal, which he described as “fair”.
“The message is: We want the future, we want a European Macedonia! It is our responsibility to secure a future for our children and their children,” Mr Zaev said.
Opposition party VMRO-DPMNE staged its own rally on Sunday in the eastern town of Stip to encourage voters to reject the name change.
Despite the forceful words, VMRO-DPMNE and the rest of Macedonia’s political opposition have advised supporters to vote according to their consciences.
Voter turnout will be a crucial factor in the referendum is crucial: 50% plus one of Macedonia’s 1.8 million registered voters must cast ballots for the referendum vote to be valid.
Opinion polls indicate the name change would be approved, but turnout could fall just short of the required threshold.