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Court Rejects Bids To Cancel Macedonia's Name-Change Referendum

Demonstrators wave flags in front of the parliament building in Skopje during a protest earlier this year against a proposal to change the country's name to North Macedonia.

Macedonia's Constitutional Court has rejected two bids to declare the September 30 referendum on changing the country’s name to North Macedonia illegal and unconstitutional.

Judges voted 7-2 on September 19 to reject the two lawsuits filed by Skopje-based diaspora group the World Macedonian Congress and the small, left-wing Levitsa party.

Western officials have hailed the referendum, which follows a hard-won agreement with neighboring Greece to end a decades-long dispute over Macedonia's name.

The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.

Greece, a NATO and European Union member, has cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations.

If the deal goes ahead, Greece will lift objections to Macedonia joining NATO and the EU.

Based on reporting by AP and