Statue of Alexander the Great, who is claimed by both Greece and Macedonia. ebrkut via Flickr/Creative Commons

Macedonia urges Greece to solve 20-year row over name

The two countries have been locked in a contentious dispute since 1991 over who gets to use the name Macedonia.

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER Nikola Gruevski said today he expected Greece’s new government to focus on solving a 20-year-old dispute over which country has the right to the name Macedonia.

“I expect the new government of Greece to be devoted to finding a solution to the name row,” Gruevski said. “I hope it will find a fast and effective solution that would please both sides and the citizens of Macedonia.”

Since Skopje proclaimed its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has alleged that use of the name Macedonia suggests a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Greece blocked Macedonia’s invitation to join NATO in 2008, and a year later prevented the European Union from starting accession talks with Skopje despite recommendations from the European Commission.

Gruevski said he hoped the cabinet of newly elected Greek premier Antonis Samaras would not use Greece’s economic crisis “as an alibi to avoid making efforts to find a solution for the problem that has bothered relations of two states for 21 years.”

Macedonia maintains that changing its name would be a denial of its own national identity and language.

At the United Nations it is recognised as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Almost two decades of UN-led negotiations over the name dispute have so far been fruitless.

- © AFP, 2012

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