Why Greece and Macedonia argued about 'Macedonia' for 30 years

Leaders from Greece and Macedonia say they will meet in Switzerland this week as they continue to seek a solution to a nearly three-decade-old name dispute.

A Greek government spokesman said on Jan. 22 that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.

Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.

macedonia map

Updated map from the CIA Factbook, 20 Mar 08 (Image Wikipedia)

Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 have complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.

Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.

U.N.-mediated talks between the two countries’ chief negotiators in New York on Jan. 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.

Greece wants Macedonia to change its name — adding a modifier like “New” or “North” — to clarify that it has no claim on the neighboring Greek province of Macedonia.

However, many Greeks disagree with such a solution.

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Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Janu. 21 to show they were against the use of the word “Macedonia” in any solution to the row.

At the U.N., Macedonia is formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

However, the Security Council has agreed that it is a provisional name.

Macedonia also has been admitted to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund under the FYROM moniker.

Most countries, including Russia and the United States, recognize the country’s constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.