Greece has accused the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) of violating a 1995 agreement that normalized bilateral relations between the two states after officials of the Balkan country’s women’s under-17 national handball team showed up wearing “Macedonia” insignia on their jerseys for a match against their Greek counterparts in Skopje.
The Greek Handball Association withdrew its players in protest at the incident Tuesday after which FYROM scored a technical victory of 10-0. As a result, the European Handball Federation (EHF) excluded the Greek women's handball team from the competition and imposed a 25,000-euro fine on the federation.
The Greek team has the right to appeal the decision.
“According to the interim accord of 1995, FYROM can join international organizations only under its provisional name. We witness once again that FYROM, after gaining membership to an international organization, attempts to violate the interim accord and participate under its constitutional name,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
“The Foreign Ministry expresses its support to the members of the women's under-17 national handball team, who were forced to withdraw from the European Championship match with FYROM, due to FYROM's violation of the interim accord,” it said.
Greece and FYROM have been at loggerheads over the right to the name Macedonia since the early 1990s. Athens insists that the name “Macedonia” inherently suggests territorial ambitions beyond its neighbor’s existing borders into the northern Greek province with the same name.
Athens and Skopje signed an interim agreement in 1995 under which FYROM would be referred to internationally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In exchange, Greece lifted its embargo, recognized the provisional name and agreed not to block the country's membership in international institutions.