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Macedonian citizens rush to get new passport before deadline

Citizens of North Macedonia queued at police stations this weekend in an attempt to get their new passports.

On Monday, the validity of old ones, which do not bear the word “North”, will expire.

While old IDs will remain valid at home, the delay in issuing passports threatens to affect citizens’ movements, restricting their travel and preventing those who are abroad after 12 February from returning home.

“It is physically impossible to issue all the documents by the deadline. The very printing and issuing of the passports poses the biggest problem, and it can only be lessened with better organisation and management,” the newly-appointed caretaker Interior Minister Pance Toskovski said.

At the current pace of issuing some 50,000 passports per month, he estimated that it would take another full year after the deadline for the process to be completed.

The name dispute spans decades, sparking a Greek veto against the newly independent former Yugoslav republic over its use of the name “Macedonia” for the country – claiming they had a region by the same name.

Resolving the name dispute took 11 years, until in 2018 what was then called the Republic of Macedonia signed the Prespa Agreement with Greece to much praise, agreeing to go as far as to change its name to North Macedonia to overcome a veto from Athens that hampered the country’s EU and NATO accession.