Thousands of flag-waving protestors in Skopje, the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Sunday chanted “We are Macedonians” at a rally to protest a possible change to their country’s name to comply with a demand by Greece.
The protestors organized by the “We are Macedonia” movement gathered under the statue of Greek ruler Alexander the Great in Skopje’s main square.
“We are here because questions about the name, the identity, the constitution (and) language are issues over which we must adopt a (strong) position,” Evica Stojanova-Kamberova, one of rally organizers, told the crowd.
The Balkan republic and its southern neighbor Greece have agreed to step up UN-brokered negotiations this year to solve a decades-old dispute that has hampered Skopje’s ambition to join NATO and the European Union.
Protesters demanded that the government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev halt talks with Greece and also want a resolution at the United Nations demanding the country’s recognition under its constitutional name “Macedonia.”
They also accused the government and the main opposition nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party of betraying the national interest.
Last month, Zaev said FYROM is looking at four options to settle the dispute with Greece that would include a geographical qualifier to ensure there is a differentiation in the two names.
Media reports showed parallel rallies staged by FYROM nationals abroad in other cities including Washington and Sydney, Australia, where Greek flags and Zaev’s photo were set ablaze. [Reuters]