NEW YORK—Greece and its Northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), might be close to solving their decades-long name dispute, which has caused virulent diplomatic bickering between the two countries and kept the latter from joining NATO and the European Union.
The name feud began in 1991, when the FYROM gained independence from former Yugoslavia and proclaimed itself as the Republic of Macedonia. The Greek government considered the newborn country to be appropriating the name of Greece’s northern region, usurping “Greece’s national, historical and cultural heritage.” For 27 years, Greece has imposed the use of the acronym FYROM among EU members; the vindication of the word Macedonia has been a central claim for Greek nationalists, who organize periodic demonstrations under the banner “Macedonia is Greece.”
Early in January, both governments announced their willingness to reach a compromise. Last week, Macedonia’s foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov confirmed that Skopje’s airport will no longer be called Alexander the Great, a naming that the Greeks took as provocation and an attempt to appropriate the memory of one of their historic figures.
The negotiations will likely continue for months, but both sides have showed an interest in settling for an agreement. The new names under review for the FYROM include Upper Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, and New Macedonia.
Photo: Monument to Alexander the Great in Skopje, FYROM / Flickr, Juan Antonio Segal. Licensed under Creative Commons.