As Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has already accepted that a new name for the country’s northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will include Macedonia, tens of thousands of angry Greeks took to the streets around the country in protest on Jan. 21.
Tsipras’ anti-nationalist party, which has essentially stopped trying to get back the stolen Parthenon Marbles, saying they “belong to the world” and not Greece, will agreed to giving away the name Macedonia, he said, arguing there’s no choice even though Greece can continue to bar FYROM’s hopes of getting into the European Union or NATO.
With a parade of furious Greeks demonstrating against him, Tsipras signaled that he didn’t care and that a coming deal with concede the name of Macedonia – Greece’s northern province which abuts FYROM.
“For the last 25 years our neighbours are recognized as Republic of Macedonia by a number of countries while we are struggling everywhere to call them FYROM. A compound name in which the term “Macedonia” is included without any designation that excludes ownership of the geographic position and history,” he said.
ΖΩΝΤΑΝΑ ΤΟ ΣΥΛΛΑΛΗΤΗΡΙΟ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΙΑ Atlas tv LIVE !
Posted by ATLAS TV on Sunday, January 21, 2018
“In practice, it is not irrational the term “Macedonia” to exist in a compound name either with geographic or with time designation for everyone which will make totally clear that nobody claims territory or other people’s history” said Tsipras.
He didn’t add that if Greece stood its ground and insisted on a name that didn’t include the word Macedonia that it wouldn’t be used otherwise.
Ironically, his junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said they will not accept the word Macedonia, although Kammenos said they would, under the name Makedonija, which translates to Macedonia, allowing him to have it both ways.
United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, who has failed for more than two decades to get the two sides to agree to a new name for FYROM, a temporary acronym allowed by a then-ruling New Democracy government, is pushing a solution with critical meetings of NATO and the EU coming this year and as the United States wants to get FYROM into the bloc to stave off Russian interests in the Balkans.
Not buying any of those arguments, protesting Greeks rallied, especially in Thessaloniki, which abuts FYROM and which FYROM claims is theirs, along with other Greek lands including Macedonia.
Tens of thousands of flag-waving Greeks gathered in Thessaloniki on Jan. 21 to demand that FYROM – which more than 140 countries and news organizations including the Associated Press call Macedonia -change its name because it’s also the name of the Greek province of which Thessaloniki is the capital.
Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, which share a border, have been locked in the name dispute since FYROM declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greeks feel deeply the use of the name Macedonia is a usurpation of their heritage and implies territorial claims on their province.
IT’S ALREADY OVER
FYROM – which calls itself Macedonia – is represented in international organizations as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and is seated in the United Nations under the letter T, right after Thailand.
The rally was staged in front of a statue of Alexander the Great, the most famous ruler of the ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia – which FYROM also claims as its own and named its international airport after him and erected a statue of the Greek conqueror in its capital of Skopje.
Thessaloniki’s leftist anti-nationalist Mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, didn’t speak and previously said he’s also willing to give away the name of Macedonia.
Several local lawmakers attended, as did the local bishop, Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessalonica, whom many people consider the real leader of the nationalist hardliners opposing an accommodation between the countries.
Anthimos, in speaking about the citizens of Macedonia, used the term Skopje, the name of its capital, which is how most Greeks refer to them.
“Demonstrate, my brothers for Macedonia … Skopje will never be accepted with the name Macedonia by the people’s conscience,” Anthimos thundered from the pulpit during his sermon. “If we only shut (access) to the port (of Thessaloniki), they’re dead the following week.”
The rally didn’t reach the magnitude of one in 1992, when the name issue first flared up. It was prompted by recent efforts on both sides of the border to find an acceptable compromise.
A new administration in FYROM under moderate Zoran Zaev said it wants to find a solution but one which doesn’t include conceding the name Macedonia although his country has no bargaining chips to use against Greece.
“Today, the message is aimed primarily at Greek politicians,” said Giorgos Tatsios, president of the Greek Federation of Macedonian Cultural Associations.
“Those who use the name of Macedonia and give it away with no scruples. We call on the government and, especially, the foreign ministry and (foreign minister Nikos) Kotzias to become the hero of Greek Macedonians and not hand over the name. If he does, he should know he is a traitor to the nation.”
Naturally, there were dissenters, but they didn’t show up, except for a few hundred anarchists, who had their own banner: “Against nationalism; the whole earth is our homeland.” Some of them clashed with passers-by, prompting police to intervene.
People presumed to be right-wing extremists set fire to a building occupied by some of the anarchist counter-demonstrators in the center of the city. The building suffered extensive damage, but none of its occupants was present when masked men set fire to it.
Cretans in traditional costumes who travelled to the northern city for the protest, some with their horses, stood out in the crowd.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose father was Prime Minister in 1992 when Greece gave away the name Macedonia didn’t attend the protests but has called for SYRIZA and ANEL to present a unified front without saying if he would also agree to the name Macedonia in a new composite.
The 1992 rally was backed by the Greek Orthodox Church which, however, distanced itself from the demonstration after Archbishop Ieronymos Prime Minister told Tsipras that “national unity is needed…not protests and cries,” a hint that perhaps even the Church has given up the fight.
Tsipras, who is expected to meet with Zaev in at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland next week, told the newspaper Ethnos that “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,” although FYROM already had.