A statue of the Macedon king Alexander the Great riding his horse, Bucephalus, has been taken down in Skopje airport.
The removal of the statue comes after the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) decided to rename its main airport and a key highway, both named after the Greek hero, in a sign of goodwill towards Greece, with which it is currently engaged in negotiations over its name.
The statue had been placed in Skopje airport’s arrivals lounge in 2011 and was a donation of the Turkish company TAV, which has been managing the facility since 2010.
In a related development, FYROM’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that he is optimistic a solution to the name dispute with Greece will be reached soon, but reiterated that his country cannot accept the demand by Athens to change its constitution.
“The new requirement from Greece is that we need to change our constitution. But a constitution is a home rulebook. It doesn’t have implications outside the country. In any case, changing the constitution wouldn’t be a final guarantee, because a new government in the future could just change the constitution back again,” he said.
Athens wants Skopje to change its constitution to rid it of any references that could lead to irredentist claims to the province of Macedonia in northern Greece. Zaev said, however, that he and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can reach a compromise to the decades-old dispute before a NATO summit scheduled to take place in Brussels on July 11-12.