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Macedonia To Scrap Alexander Signs To Appease Greece


By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia said it will start replacing ‘Alexander the Great’ name signs from the busiest airport and highway – once its decision to rename them to satisfy Greece becomes official.

Macedonia will soon start replacing the old “Alexander the Great” name signs from Skopje airport and from the E-75 highway that leads toward Greece.

The government’s decision to rename key infrastructure was published on Thursday in the official gazette.

New signs erected along the highway will instead bear the new name, “Friendship”. The airport will be simply renamed “Skopje International Airport”.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced that Macedonia would rename the airport and the highway as part of concessions reached with his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, at their first meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24.

The move was designed to ease relations with Greece, in the hope that this would increase the chances of successfully concluding UN-sponsored bilateral talks on Macedonia’a name. This would then unlock Macedonia’s stalled EU and NATO accession process.

The long-standing “name” dispute centres on Greece’s insistence that use of the word Macedonia implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name. Athens insists that a new name must be found that makes a clear distinction between the Greek province and the country.

As a result of the unresolved dispute, in 2008, Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO entry and it has also blocked the start of Macedonia’s EU accession talks, despite several positive annual reports from the European Commission on the country’s progress.

Greece also saw the old names of the airport and highway as a deliberate provocation, insisting that the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great was an exclusive part of its own, Hellenic heritage.

Athens has praised its neighbour’s move to rename infrastructure as a step in the right direction towards building mutual trust.

Meanwhile, the UN-sponsored talks between the two sides are expected to resume soon.

At the last meeting, on Tuesday, in Vienna, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov, discussed details about a possible name agreement for a marathon seven hours.

After that meeting, Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev said progress has been made in three out of seven points contained in the latest proposal package for a name solution forwarded by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz. He did not reveal specific details.

“That is a signal for us and encouragement for the Greek side that it is possible to find a solution,” Zaev told Macedonian media on Wednesday.

Unofficially, possible name solutions involve using adjectives such as “Upper”, “Northern” or “New” in front of the term “Macedonia”.

But these lie only in the realm of speculation. Hardline Greek nationalists oppose any use of the term “Macedonia” by their northern neighbour.

Greek officials have also said they would like to see a name change that would be “erga omnes”, for all uses, not just bilateral use, and want changes made to the Macedonian constitution to eliminate all risk of Macedonian irredentism.

Zaev said earlier this month that his country was ready to accept a compound name with a geographical qualifier put alongside the name Macedonia.

The government did not comment on making constitutional changes, which would require a two-third majority in parliament, which it does not have.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

One thought on “Macedonia To Scrap Alexander Signs To Appease Greece

  • February 19, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    It all started with the uneducated goat herder writing poetry about his village. Georgi Pulevski claimed that he was a direct decendent of Alexander the Great. I tend to think he was a decendent of Alexander the Goat. Like Ljubčo Georgievski he had an about face and claimed to be Bulgarian. In fact he stated he regretted not being able to execute the unification of Bulgaria and Ottoman Macedonia. Antiquization was replaced by a pan Slavic united Bulgaria. Georgi Pulevski went from being a goat herder to a stonemason to a founder of Macedonism to a Bulgaphile upon his death. Goergievski and Pulevski are similar in this regard. They both renounced their new found religion and came to their senses. With the death of the uneducated stonemason the Bulgarians of Vardar Macedonia were cured until the unimaginable happened – TITO. A half caste Croat/Slovene redefines the Bulgarians of Vardar Banovina as Macedonians. The Diaspora left their little villages with a suitcase and a story. Tito’s story. Just when it couldn’t get any worse Todov and his deluded intellectuals addicted to Pulevski poetry brainwash their population. FYROM is born. Gruevski is the second coming of Pulevski.
    The ethnic Bulgarian will always be the ethnic Bulgarian. The ethnic Greek will always be an ethnic Greek. Language defines both of us. The Antiquization story is flawed. This why FYROM today has failed. Let’s not nation build on an uneducated stonemason. Read his work as a literary piece rather than a historical piece. Be proud of your Bulgarian ethnicity and don’t allow historical distortions. You are what you speak and the FYROMIAN Slavs speak Bulgarian


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