International

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Greece and Former Yugoslavia Spar over Name ‘Macedonia’

April 07, 2008 07:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
What’s in a name? Sometimes, plenty. Greece blocked Macedonia’s bid to join NATO because the former Yugoslav republic will not change its name.

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Last week, NATO denied Macedonia entrance into the alliance because of the name dispute, and now Greece says it will veto Macedonia's attempts to join the European Union unless the issue is resolved.

A province in northern Greece is also called Macedonia, dating back to the days of Alexander the Great, although Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki argues that Greece didn’t make the name official until 1988.

But the thought of any other territory calling itself “Macedonia” stirs up nationalist fervor in Greece.

“It might sound very sentimental, but [the name] is embedded in the hearts and minds of Greeks,” said Nikos Karahalios, campaign manager for Greece’s New Democracy Party.

In a debate on Greek network Skai TV, a student from Macedonia said, “You just need to live in Macedonia to call yourself Macedonian.”

A Greek student snapped back, “I am a real Macedonian, and I’m not like you.”

Macedonia goes by the official name, “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” when working with international organizations. Other names proposed by United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz include, “Republic of Upper Macedonia,” which was a hit with Greece, but unpopular in Macedonia.

The former Yugoslav republic is not the only country to have squabbles over a name.

The BBC uses the historical name “Burma” instead of “Myanmar,” the ruling junta’s new name for the country, to preserve the news service’s neutrality in the ongoing debate over nomenclature.

There is also a popular movement in Turkey, with its own Facebook group, seeking to change its English name to “Türkiye” to avoid the current name’s “unfortunate” associations.

Headline Link: ‘NATO backs U.S. defense plan, nixes new memberships’

Background: ‘Two Countries at Odds over a Name’

Video: ‘Greek and FYROMian Students Discuss the Name Issue’

Reactions: Greece’s historical claims, Macedonia says minority ethnic group needs protection

The Greek perspective
Macedonia’s stance

Historical Context: National name changes

Reference: NATO and its member countries

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