The anti-nationalist Mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city and port, said he’d like to change the name of Macedonia airport in apparent deference to the abutting Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for removing the name of Alexander the Great from its airport.
Yiannis Boutaris had been visited by FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, also an anti-nationalist, said Greece is ready to let FYROM keep the word Macedonia – that of the real Macedonia, an abutting ancient Greek province – in a new composite, infuriating protesters.
Seeking to end a 26-year-old name dispute with Greece, Zoran Zaev renamed his country’s airport and national highway as a gesture toward resolution of the acrimonious feud, before the Mayor of his country’s capital Skopje, admitted the Slavs never had a real case in claiming Alexander, the Greek hero.
Boutaris reportedly made the comments during a meeting of the city council when he also proposed changing the name of Thessaloniki’s bus station, said Kathimerini.
“I didn’t say we should change them, I simply posed the question,” he told Skai TV. “We should think about why this name, Macedonia, has divided so many people,” said Boutaris, who in the past said he wanted to honor Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was born in Thessaloniki and became Turkey’s greatest ruler and as Commander of the Army, allowed the burning of Smyrna and the deaths of thousands of Greeks, driving Greece out of Anatolia for good.
Boutaris was immediately scathed by Giorgos Koumoutsakos, the Shadow Foreign Minister for the major opposition New Democracy who said the Mayor “should leave the diplomacy and the negotiations to the diplomats and concentrate on his duties, such as sanitation and trash collection in his city,” belittling his standing.