Several thousand Macedonians gather in support of EU, NATO membership
SKOPJE (Reuters) - Several thousand Macedonians gathered in the capital Skopje on Sunday to express their support for NATO and European Union membership bids and for a change in the country's name. The crowd, waving Macedonian flags, marched through Skopje city centre and stopped in front of the European Union office in Macedonia to hear Prime Minister Zoran Zaev speak
SKOPJE (Reuters) - Several thousand Macedonians gathered in the capital Skopje on Sunday to express their support for NATO and European Union membership bids and for a change in the country's name.
The crowd, waving Macedonian flags, marched through Skopje city centre and stopped in front of the European Union office in Macedonia to hear Prime Minister Zoran Zaev speak.
"EU and NATO is the safe road, for us there is no other alternative. That's our guide for a better life," Zaev told them.
He called on people to vote in support of a "historic" decision on Sept. 30, when a referendum on both the membership bids and the agreement with Greece to change the country's name to Republic of North Macedonia will take place.
Greece, a member of both NATO and the EU, has refused to accept the Balkan country's name, saying it implies territorial claims on the Greek province of Macedonia and amounts to an appropriation of its ancient civilisation. It has blocked the country's membership bids.
Macedonia was part of the now-defunct Yugoslavia, declaring independence in 1991.
Zaev's government, elected in 2017, pushed for an agreement with Greece and the two sides agreed on the new name in June.
In June, NATO invited Macedonia to begin accession talks with the alliance, but said it would have to change its constitution and adopt the new name first.
The EU has also said it would set a date for Macedonian accession talks pending implementation of the name deal.
Macedonian nationalists who oppose the deal organised a protest in the eastern town of Stip on Sunday.
"They (the government) are taking advantage of the Macedonian people's strong will to achieve European standards, true prosperity, stability and security, to push an agenda which is against our state and national interests," the leader of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, Hristijan Mickoski, told about 2,000 people in Stip.
According to recent opinion polls, more than 50 percent of people are likely to vote, with the majority supporting the membership bids and the name deal.
(Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.