Tens of thousands protests in Athens over Macedonia compromise
Posted February 4, 2018 2:36 p.m. EST
(CNN) — More than 100,000 people protested in Athens on Sunday, angry over a possible compromise to a long-running dispute with its Balkan neighbor over its use of the name Macedonia. Protesters traveled from across the country to the Greek capital, where they waved flags and chanted slogans, including "Macedonia is Greek" and "Hands off Macedonia." Police said about 140,000 protesters were in attendance Sunday. The protests come after Greece and Macedonia restarted talks last month to resolve a dispute that began more than two decades ago. Earlier this month, UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz voiced optimism the two countries could end the dispute this year. Leaders of the two countries have also said progress has been made in settling the dispute, with indications that an agreement could include a composite name with a geographical or chronological qualifier, which would still include "Macedonia."
The dispute began after the small Balkan country, for decades a part of the former Yugoslavia, gained independence in 1991 and wanted to call itself Macedonia. However, Greece has objected to use of the name, arguing it could imply territorial claims over the northern Greece region of the same name, something Macedonia denies.
Opponents believe their neighbors are Slavs, with no linguistic or cultural connection to the Greek region of Macedonia, which was the home of Alexander the Great. Macedonians argue they are living in part of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and have cultural ties to it. Because of Greece's objections, Macedonia joined the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. Greece, a member of both NATO and the European Union, has also repeatedly blocked any NATO or EU ambition for its neighbor, both significant goals for consecutive Skopje governments.