Macedonia name dispute brings Greeks onto the streets
Hundreds of thousands say name implies territorial claim over their own northern Macedonia region
Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have joined protests in Athens about the decades-long dispute over the naming of Macedonia.
Many object to the country using that name Macedonia, which is the same as that of Greece’s northernmost region, fearing it implies a territorial claim. There is also anger that Macedonia has appropriated significant aspects of Hellenic culture, such as the sun symbol that inspired the Macedonian flag and Alexander the Great, after whom their main airport is named.
Macedonia is known officially as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) in organisations such as the UN, and the dispute over its name has been rumbling on since the country gained its independence in 1991.
While seemingly petty, the disagreement has nevertheless had serious consequences for Macedonia, which has been blocked by Greece from joining Nato and the EU.
Now, in a bid to diffuse the diplomatic tension with its northern neighbour, Greece’s left-wing Syriza government has proposed agreeing to a composite name for the country which would include the word Macedonia but ensure a clear differentiation from the Greek region.
“For many Greeks that would be a step too far,” says the BBC. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias received death threats after saying he expected the dispute to be resolved within months.
Critics claim the government has caved in - and protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks in reaction. A mass protest in Greece’s second city Thessaloniki, the capital of the Macedonia region, was followed by another huge demonstration in Athens over the weekend.
Tensions have been stoked by the Greek Orthodox Church which has openly backed the campaign to stop Macedonia using any variant of the name.