Why this story matters:
To foreigners, this situation may seem enigmatic. Why fight so hard over a name? Instead of being monopolized by one country, can't it be shared and cherished by everyone in the region?
Well, in the Balkans, few issues are clear and offer a solution that pleases all. Both Greece and Macedonia take pride in their national identity and both have used the row to reheat local political tensions.
In the past conservative Macedonian governments ignited nationalistic aspirations by turning the capital of Skopje into a patriotic theme park, with antique statues and monuments all over the city center.
But with the new government comes a fresh start, one that might be ready to move on and adapt the name "New Macedonia."
Athens too seems open to the renewed talks and thus a compromise between the two countries is within grasp. It remains to be seen if -- and how much -- the nations will approve of this shift.
Details from the story:
- Geographically, the term “Macedonia” refers to a region that covers Greece, Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. Its borders have changed in the past. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Republic of Macedonia occupies about two-fifths of the entire region of Macedonia. The rest belongs to Greece and Bulgaria.
- Greece argues that the Republic of Macedonia is not entitled to carry the name "Macedonia" because it is intrinsically linked to Greek culture and history. Hence, while most countries refer to it as the "Republic of Macedonia" or simply "Macedonia", Greece calls its neighbor the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"(FYROM).
- Due to the unsolved dispute, Greece has disrupted Macedonia's path towards NATO and the EU.
- Macedonia’s former conservative government ignited the conflict by claiming the legacy of the ancient Macedonian king Alexander the Great and naming an airport and a highway after him.
- Although so far, the two countries have been unsuccessful in reaching a compromise, Macedonia's new government seems eager to find a solution. PM Zoran Zaev has announced that the names of the airport and the highway will be changed.
- Diplomats suggest that "New Macedonia", "Northern Macedonia" or "Upper Macedonia" could be acceptable for both sides.
- Thousands of Greeks protested in Thessaloniki and Athens demanding that their government does not compromise on any solution which would include the name "Macedonia."