Macedonia ready to make concessions in name row

A general view on the Alexander the Great Airport (Aleksandar Veliki Airport) near the capital of Skopje, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 6 February 2018. Macedonian Government made a decision to rename the Alexander the Great Airport to 'Skopje International airport' . [Georgi Licovski/EPA/EFE]

Macedonia, is ready to make concessions over its name by adding an extra geographic designation, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said yesterday (6 February), in a bid to end a long-running row with Greece.

“We are ready to accept a geographic designation for the name” of the country, Zaev told reporters in Skopje.

Zaev refused to elaborate further, saying he did not want to undermine the ongoing talks with Greece over the issue.

“I want the negotiation process to succeed, we are ready for a geographic designation and I will stop here since I know this is a sensitive issue,” he said.

Macedonia media speculated about several possible options, including changing the name to Upper Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Macedonia-Skopje or New Macedonia.

Tensions grow before biggest secret is revealed: FYROM's new name

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Skopje, possibly encouraged by Russia, is trying to hinder the resolution of a name dispute with Greece that has blocked the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) progress in joining NATO and the European Union.

The Macedonian prime minister was speaking two days after tens of thousands of Greeks staged a mass rally in Athens urging the government not to compromise in the row.

Hundreds of thousands rally in Athens over Macedonia name row

Hundreds of thousands of Greeks rallied outside parliament in Athens on Sunday (4 February) to protest against the use of the term Macedonia in any settlement the government pursues with the ex-Yugoslav Republic to end a decades-old name row.

Athens objects to Macedonia’s name, arguing that it suggests that Skopje has claims to the territory and heritage of Greece’s historic northern region of the same name, going back to when Alexander the Great ruled in the fourth century BC.

The dispute has remained unresolved since the former Yugoslav republic’s independence in 1991.

Because of Greece’s objections, Macedonia in 1993 joined the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The government on Tuesday also officially renamed Skopje’s Alexander the Great airport, which becomes International Airport Skopje. The north-south Alexander the Great motorway, at the Greek border, similarly becomes the Friendship Highway.

A resolution of the name issue is needed before Macedonia, home to some 2.2 million people, can join NATO or open accession negotiations with the European Union.

The European Commission made it clear on that it will not try to influence the UN-led talks to find a solution to the name dispute, even though Jean-Claude Juncker is due to visit Skopje by the end of the month.

Commission keeps festering Macedonia name dispute at arm's length

The European Commission made it clear on Monday (5 February) that it will not try to influence the UN-led talks to find a solution to the eternal name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, even though Jean-Claude Juncker is due to visit Skopje by the end of the month.