Greeks rally against use of “Macedonia” in name dispute with Skopje

Reuters – Hundreds of thousands of Greeks in  Thessaloniki rallied on Sunday to protest against the use of the name “Macedonia” in any solution to a long standing disagreement between Athens and Skopje over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

Greece says the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over its own northern region of that name. The two countries agreed this month to renew efforts to settle the 25-year old row, which has blocked the ex-Yugloslav republic’s attempts to join NATO and the European Union.

Both countries say they hope to reach an accord by June.

Witnesses on Sunday said about 300,000 people had gathered in Thessaloniki – the largest city in Greece’s Macedonia – many from regions across the country. It was one of the biggest protests in Greece in recent years.

They waved Greek flags, held banners reading “There is only one Macedonia and it is Greek!” and chanted the national anthem as they rallied around the statue of Alexander the Great in the center of the city and along its seaside promenade and port.

Greece has agreed that until the dispute is resolved, the country whose population is about 2 million, can be referred to internationally as “FYROM” – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That is the name under which it was admitted to the United Nations in 1993.