Hundreds of thousands of people from throughout Greece and the world are sending a powerful message to their government, as well as the international community, that they will not accept the use of the word “Macedonia” or any derivative of it, for the solution to the 25-year conflict between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Marchers converged in Thessaloniki carrying signs and gigantic Greek flags. Images of Alexander the Great were everywhere and speakers, politicians, Greek Orthodox priests and community activists each took their turn at the microphone.
FYROM’s attempts to join NATO and the European Union have been blocked by Greece, which says the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim over its own northern region of that name, which includes the city of Thessaloniki.
But the heart of the conflict hits Greeks where they feel it the most– their cultural heritage, which they say is being usurped by a Slavic nation that has adopted a Greek identity by claiming such historical figures as Alexander the Great and the Sun of Vergina, as their own.
After years of stalemate, talks resumed between representatives of the two countries and mediated by United Nations’ diplomat Matthew Nimetz.
Although the official names set forth for negotiation were not released to the public, some newspapers claimed to possess leaked information from negotiations that show a composite form of the name ‘Macedonia’ in the country’s new proposed name.
This has angered many Greeks, including leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, who have vehemently opposed any use of the word “Macedonia” for the Slavic country.
A poll last week showed that a majority of Greeks do not want “Macedonia” used in any solution, either.
But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seems to think otherwise and has hinted towards a compromise, allowing for FYROM to use a composite name, for the sake of national interests, according to an interview in the Greek newspaper To Ethnos.
“It is not unreasonable to have the term ‘Macedonia’ included in a compound name, with either a geographical or a chronological qualifier, for all uses, to make absolutely clear that nobody claims other people’s land or history.”
Tsipras called on those protesting against the composite use of the name “Macedonia” to understand that a non-solution isn’t in Greece’s national interests and that’s exactly where a continued stalemate will lead.
“However, what I urge people to appreciate sensibly is what promotes national interest and what undermines it. Non-solution undermines it. For 25 years, the neighbors have been recognized by the name “Republic of Macedonia” by many countries, and we are fighting everywhere to call them FYROM. In other words, a compound name which includes the term ‘Macedonia’, but without any definition that prevents appropriation of geography and history.”
In Greek, his exact quote was:
«Ωστόσο αυτό που τους καλώ να εκτιμήσουν νηφάλια είναι το τι προάγει το εθνικό συμφέρον και τι το υπονομεύει. Η μη λύση το υπονομεύει. Εδώ και 25 χρόνια οι γείτονες αναγνωρίζονται με το όνομα «Δημοκρατία της Μακεδονίας» από πολλές χώρες, ενώ εμείς παλεύουμε παντού ώστε να τους αποκαλούν όλοι ΠΓΔΜ. Ονομασία δηλαδή σύνθετη στην οποία περιλαμβάνεται ο όρος ‘Μακεδονία’, χωρίς όμως κανέναν προσδιορισμό που να αποτρέπει οικειοποίηση και της γεωγραφίας και της Ιστορίας. Αν λοιπόν υπάρξει ευκαιρία λύσης που θα αναιρεί αυτά τα αρνητικά δεδομένα που μας φόρτωσαν το 1992, τότε θα είναι εθνική ανοησία να μην την αξιοποιήσουμε».
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