Macedonians rally against name change
Civic organisations joined the “We are Macedonia” march in the capital, Skopje, yesterday (Sunday), gathering under a statue of the Hellenic ruler Alexander the Great in the main square (pictured).
They are urging the government not to agree to any name change and to protect the Macedonian identity and language.
The activists also want a UN resolution demanding recognition of “Macedonia”, its constitutional name.
After leaving Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia was admitted into the UN in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Protest organiser Evica Stojanova-Kamberova told the crowd: “We are here because questions about the name, the identity, the constitution [and] language are issues over which we must adopt a position.”
Parallel rallies were held by Macedonian expats in Washington DC and Sydney, where the Greek flag and Zaev’s photo were burned.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s centre-left government has opened negotiations to resolve Greece’s assertion that Macedonia’s name implies a territorial claim against its own region with the same name.
Greece and Macedonia have agreed to step up UN-brokered negotiations this year to solve a decades-old dispute that has hampered Skopje’s ambition to join Nato and the European Union.
Suggestions include the republic of North Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia and Macedonia (Skopje), Zaev said after a summit in London.
Zaev says he will accept a “geographical qualifier”, such as “Vardar”, “upper” or “north” proposed by Greece but insists the new name must “respect the dignity” of the Macedonian people.
The junior conservative coalition party in Greece and the Orthodox Church adamantly opposes any use of the word “Macedonia”.
Macedonia last week removed a statue of the ancient Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great from its main airport terminal, in a goodwill gesture to Greece.
The two-metre statue had been placed in 2011 as a gift from the Turkish firm TAV, which operates Skopje’s airport.
The authorities last month dismantled an “Alexander the Great” sign following a decision to rename the airport and the country’s main motorway, which was also previously named after Alexander.
The new names are the International Airport Skopje and the Friendship Highway.
Name signs were also removed from the highway from the Macedonia-Greece border to the frontier with Serbia.
Alexander the Great in the main square of Skopje. Picture credit: Wikimedia