North Macedonia Elections

The newly elected president of North Macedonia used the name “Macedonia” instead of “North Macedonia” during his swearing-in ceremony.
For North Macedonia to truly solve its structural problems, it needs to end these deadlocked disputes with both its region and its neighbors.
Bulgaria has stated that it has veto power that can block North Macedonia’s EU accession process and that it must fulfill certain conditions.


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On 9 May 2024, both the second round of presidential elections and general elections took place in North Macedonia. The election results resulted in the victory of the main opposition right-wing and nationalist party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for the National Unity of Macedonia (VMRO-DPMNE). She was also elected as the first female president of North Macedonia.

The European Union adventure of North Macedonia, which has been continuing since the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit, which has made significant progress in the European Union (EU) accession negotiations in recent years, has led to questions about the extent to which this will change with the coming to power of a right-wing and nationalist party. The previous ruling party, the Union of Social Democrats of Macedonia (SDSM), had signed the Prespa Agreement, which resolved the name dispute with Greece. Greece subsequently lifted its veto, which had prevented North Macedonia from entering both the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

On March 25, 2020, North Macedonia started negotiations with the EU and officially became a member of NATO two days later. Thus, it made a very important progress in its integration with the West. However, it is understood that these diplomatic successes of the SDSM were not sufficient in the eyes of the people when the results of the elections are analyzed. Because in addition to the ongoing economic problems in the country, corruption and the activities of illegal organizations could not be solved. These structural problems led the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party to come to powerAt this point, the following question arises: Since domestic and foreign policy are not independent of each other, how should North Macedonia maintain its relations in the region in order to find solutions to its structural problems?.

Considering its geography and neighbors, it is very important to pursue a balanced policy away from sharp rhetoric. However, the newly elected president of North Macedonia used the name “Macedonia” instead of “North Macedonia” during the swearing-in ceremony. This caused a great reaction from Greece and was widely covered in the Greek press.[1]

Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis described this characterization of North Macedonia as “unlawful and unacceptable”. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a warning to North Macedonia, writing on her X-account that North Macedonia must respect binding agreements in order to continue its successful accession to the EU.[2] However, Christian Mitskosi, the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, made a statement in favor of using the term Macedonia. “If Greece believes that the Prespa Treaty has been violated, it should apply to the International Court of Justice.”.[3]

VMRO-DPMNE is not actually a party against North Macedonia’s EU membership. However, the fact that it is a right-wing and nationalist party leads to the possibility of damaging the gains that North Macedonia has achieved so far in terms of EU membership. The name crisis at the swearing-in ceremony of VMRO-DPMNE, which had just come to power, signaled the realization of this possibility. With the name Macedonia being mentioned again, Greece’s concerns have come to the fore again. At the same time, North Macedonia, which has also been experiencing crises with Bulgaria over language and ethnicity, has the possibility of confronting Bulgaria on these issues in the future. Bulgaria considers Macedonian as “a dialect of Bulgarian”. In particular, both countries have different perspectives on historiography and the perception of national identity. At the political level, there have also been some conflicts on issues such as the EU accession process and regional cooperation. Bulgaria has stated that it has veto power that can block North Macedonia’s EU membership process and that it must fulfill certain conditions. This situation constitutes an obstacle to North Macedonia’s integration into the EU. However, in recent years, the relations between the two countries have been trying to improve through negotiations and various diplomatic initiatives. There are common interests, especially in areas such as economic cooperation and cultural interaction, and cooperation in these areas is increasing. However, the name controversy at the swearing-in ceremony has also given Bulgaria a voice. Indeed, Bulgaria has stated that North Macedonia is putting its EU membership at risk with this behavior.[4]

As a result, in order for North Macedonia to truly solve its structural problems, it needs to end these deadlocked disputes with both its region and its neighbors. Given the fact that it is one of the most economically and socially underdeveloped countries in its region, it is clear that it would not be in North Macedonia’s interest to revisit issues that have already been resolved.

[1] “North Macedonian President claims right to use Macedonia despite international backlash”, Newsroom,, (Date of Access: 14.05.2024)

[2] “North Macedonian President’s inaugration revizeyse name dispute with Greece”, Reuters,, (Date of Access: 14.05.2024).

[3] “North Macedonia VMRO Party leader insist on ‘Macedonia’”, Newsroom,, (Date of Access: 17.05.2024).

[4] Krassen Nikolov, “Bulgaria says North Macedonia risks EU accession over recent statments”,, (Date of Access: 17.05.2024).

Havanur ÖLMEZ
Havanur ÖLMEZ
Havanur Ölmez graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences, Department of International Relations in 2022. In 2023, she started his master's degree at Ankara University Turkish Revolution History Institute, Department of Balkan Studies. She is currently in her thesis period and is carrying out his thesis titled Turkish-Greek Relations in the Context of National Interest: 1930 Treaty of Residence, Trade and Navigation. She knows very well English and beginner level Greek. Her main areas of interest are Turkish-Greek relations, nationalism studies, Turkish and Greek foreign policies.

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