Macedonia vs. Greece: will the conflict end?

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The dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the change of name of the first country could be coming to an end after 27 years

Macedonia vs. Greece: will the conflict end?

On Sunday, January 20, the capital of Greece, Athens, was the epicenter of protests against its neighboring country, Macedonia. Likewise, on Thursday the 24th they repeated themselves, both times in front of the Parliament of Greece. The reason for these protests, which ended in clashes between the police and the protesters, has to do with the change of name of the neighboring country, passing from the Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of Macedonia of the North.

Leer en español: Macedonia vs. Grecia: ¿acabará el conflicto?

To understand why these protests occur only because of a name change, it is necessary to go back in history to the consolidation of both countries.

Macedonia: the kingdom of Alexander the Great

Macedonia was initially the home of Alexander the Great, king of this area which is currently a province in northern Greece. Also known as Alexander the Great, this king consolidated in the Kingdom of Macedonia, which was later divided into Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria, as part of what was Yugoslavia.

The current Republic of Macedonia, on the other hand, was part of Yugoslavia, as were the countries that belonged to the kingdom of Alexander the Great, which is why it is also known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, although it is not its official name.

However, it was never part of the Kingdom of Macedonia. This being the reason why the Greeks fight because the region of their country is the only one that bears that name since there was original Macedonia. According to the BBC, Greece states that "the name" Macedonia "suggests that that country has territorial ambitions over Greek Macedonia."

In this way, beyond a fight just by a name, it brought with it other implications, especially "for fear that there would be claims about the homonymous region in the north of Greece," according to La Vanguardia.

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The name change

This dispute between neighboring countries has taken place since the 1990s, with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the Republic of Macedonia. The conflict has even led to the fact that this country is not part of NATO, because Greece strongly opposed until it was not accepted in this organization. In the same way, it has happened with the European Union. Its size, of a little more than 2 million inhabitants, has not helped it to press to be part of these international organizations.

Due to this, both countries managed, in 2018, to consolidate what the BBC called "a historic agreement," because, after almost 30 years, they concluded that the new name would be the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

After the signing of the agreement, which puts the small country as a candidate to join the European Union, the Macedonian government decided to hold a referendum so that the people could approve the change of name.

This vote was held on September 30, 2018, with the question "Are you in favor of being a member of NATO and the European Union when accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?", According to La Vanguardia. The prime minister, Zoran Zaev, had claimed to give up winning the 'no,' although he did not have to because the vote did not even reach the threshold.

Despite only having voted 36% of the population, that is 15% less than necessary; the parliament subsequently approved the change of name.

So, why do the Greeks protest?

"There is only one Macedonia, and it is Greek," shout the demonstrators in front of the Parliament, while the parliamentarians of Greece try to carry out the vote that approves this agreement. If passed, the name of Macedonia could change, and the country could become part of the European Union and NATO.

However, for the Greeks, especially the conservative sectors, this change is not enough. For they affirm that the neighboring country should not take the Macedonian name anywhere since it does not correspond to its history.

The vote of the Parliament was to be held on Thursday, January 24, but it was postponed to the next day, because 230 of the 300 parliamentarians wanted to intervene, so that they could be allowed to all, according to El Confidencial.

According to the same media, the leader of the opposition "Kyriakos Mitsotakis, meanwhile, described the agreement as a 'defeat' and national 'error' that violates the truth and history of the country, and that 'should never have been signed.' "

On the other hand, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, in an attempt to convince the deputies, has affirmed that the agreement "constitutes the starting point of a new era of stability and progress in the Balkans," according to La Vanguardia.

On Friday 25 the final phase of the voting took place, while the protests continue and have triggered violent acts that have led to the arrest of more than 100 people. Finalle, after two days of debate, the change was approved by the Parliament, so the Republic of Macedonia can change it's name and try to have a way in to the international community


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

Translated from "Macedonia vs. Grecia: ¿acabará el conflicto?"

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