GREEKS PROTEST THE NAME “MACEDONIA”




Şimal Çınar –TDO- On Sunday Greek protesters who oppose Greek government’s proposals on the Macedonia dispute have gathered in Syntagma Square outside parliament in Athens. The dispute which has been going on since Macedonia gained independence in 1991 from Yugoslavia over the name of “Macedonia”. The name is sensitive for most Greeks since Greece has its own region called Macedonia, and people claim that the use of the name imply territorial claims over Greek land. Even though the official name of the country is accepted as “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” by UN in 1993 due to Greece’s objections, most of the time country is referred as Macedonia. When Greece's left-wing SYRIZA government declared that they want to resolve the issue and proposed a composite name for the country which would include the word Macedonia but ensure a clear differentiation from the Greek region, Greek people saw this as a compromise which led to the protests.

According to the organizers of the protests approximately 1.5 million people attended to the rally even though the police said the number was less than one tenth of the claimed. The demonstrators carrying Greek flags chanted "hands off Macedonia" and "Macedonia is Greece".

92-years-old world-renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis was one of the people who addressed to the crowds. He said, "If a government considers signing on behalf of our country... there is no doubt it must first ask the Greek people" and named the neighboring state as “illegitimate”.

Another protester from Xanthi in northern Greece said "Here are the borders. This is Macedonia. Here, these are Slavs, they are not Macedonians, we are Macedonians. Macedonia is Greek, no one can take this name, no one can use it."

Sunday’s protests marked the second of such protest in two weeks time. On 21 January, around 90,000 demonstrators have rallied in Thessaloniki, the capital of the Macedonia region.

Apart from the Macedonia name rally, a counter-protest is held by Greek far-left groups in Athens. Local police are reportedly trying currently to prevent clashes between the far-right and far-left protesters.