In news from Skopje, Macedonia’s left-wing government renames Alexander the Great Airport to Skopje International in order to quell tensions with Greece. Also, the main highway will now bear the name “Prijatelstvo,” which means friendship, as a gesture of peace toward the country’s southern neighbor.
Macedonia and Greece have been at odds for more than 25 years over the name Macedonia, which was traditionally a region of Greece. Macedonia is vying for inclusion in the EU and NATO, and progress toward those goals cannot be accomplished as long as their is friction over the naming issue. Historically Macedonia, the ancient birthplace of Phillip The Great and his son Alexander, is a Greek province which borders the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The country is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991.
Meanwhile, Greece reportedly welcomes the initiative by the former Yugoslavian state. This story at The Guardian tell of the Balkan state considering alternative names such as Upper Macedonia or New Macedonia. Over the weekend hundreds of thousands of Greeks took to the streets in protest of austerity and this naming fiasco. The initiative by Skopje is the first time since 1993, that Macedonia has made such concessions. Both nations’ leaders are under intense pressure to resolve the Balkan nation’s being held up from joining Nato and the EU.
Macedonia joined the United Nations in 1993 with the provisional name “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” because its neighbor Greece objected to the one-word name saying it implied a territorial claim to a Greek province of the same name.