July 31 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Macedonia have planned a referendum vote for September to decide whether to officially change the country's name, and clear the way to end a long-running dispute with Greece.
With a slight majority, Macedonian lawmakers approved the referendum for Sept. 30. If public voters favor the change, the nation will rename itself North Macedonia.
Macedonia signed a deal last month to change the name to end the dispute with Greece that's lasted for three decades. Athens' concern about the name is it implies a territorial claim by Macedonia on the northern Greek province of the same name. The European nation adopted the name when it broke from Yugoslavia in 1992.
The referendum will ask, "Are you for EU and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?"
A "yes," vote to the referendum would also remove references to "Macedonian people" as an indigenous race.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called the potential name change "a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples."
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said both countries want peace and will move forward as partners and allies. If the change is made, Greece would lift a veto against Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.
If the referendum passes, Greece would have to ratify the agreement by the end of the year.
There are critics to the change, however. Igor Janusev, a secretary general of Macedonian nationalist opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said the referendum wording is "manipulative."