Macedonia dispute: Greek protests gain force

This Sunday saw another major demonstration in Greece against a compromise in the dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Around 140,000 people gathered to protest against any name that contains the word Macedonia. The press describes a complex situation that could end up destabilising all Southeast Europe.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Kremlin will be delighted if compromise fails

The stability of all of Southeast Europe is at risk, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warns:

“[The name dispute has] driven Macedonia down authoritarian-nationalist paths that have almost torn the country apart; with foreseeable consequences for the surrounding states. A pro-democratic surge has enabled the recent dynamic in the name dispute. It would be endangered if Athens went back to being stubborn because of the big nationalist demonstrations. Outside of Greece, one party would be delighted: the Kremlin, which wants to prevent Macedonia's accession to Nato. Moscow is displaying as much flexible cynicism on this issue as it always does. Up to now it had warmly supported the Macedonian nationalists, now Foreign Minister Lavrov is advising the Greeks not to make any compromises.”

Defend Democracy (GR) /

Demonstrators suspect treason

The website Defend Democracy sketches out just how much of a problem the name conflict is for Tsipras and his government:

“They are also under heavy pressure from the US administration and they have probably taken engagements towards Washington ... But if they insist to their nowadays position … they will provoke a very dangerous crisis in the country. It is not only that 70% of the population is against their policy, it is that this opposition is very firm, a part of the public opinion considering the policy of the government as national betrayal. That part was peaceful today, but they seem decided to do everything to stop the parliament from voting an agreement, if Athens and Skopje sign finally such an agreement.”

Fokus (MK) /

False patriots need a good slap in the face

The Macedonians are also unwilling to make compromises in the name dispute, Fokus comments:

“History teaches us that Macedonia was never a kingdom or a state but always just a region. We have to take off our rose-coloured glasses and look reality in the face, hurt as it might. ... The name dispute with Greece is a sensitive issue, but many Macedonians lack the necessary knowledge to understand just what historic opportunities a compromise would offer for their country. Instead they're digging in their heels and insisting that Macedonia has been a large and powerful country ever since the days of Alexander the Great. What these false patriots in Macedonia need is a good slap in the face before they lead us all into the abyss.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Strong message to right-wing parties

The demonstrators want to give the right-wing and conservative politicians something to think about, Naftemporiki explains:

“The first strong message was directed at defence minister Panos Kammenos. If he wants his party [Anel] to survive the next election he must not plunge into a solution that contains the word 'Macedonia', even if it means the end of the government cooperation with Syriza. The conservative Nea Dimokratia party, which can't ignore such a large group of people many of whom belong to its party base, is also in a difficult position. ... All the more so given the presence from the demonstration of the veteran general Frangoulis Frangou, who is rumoured to be busy founding a new party to the right of Nea Dimokratia.” (GR) /

Government must not ignore people's anger

Politicians and supporters of the neo-Nazi party Chrysi Avgi also took part in the demonstration. If the government ignores the demonstrators many of them could be lured into the far right's arms, warns web portal Protagon:

“If we assume that all the democratic parties are either directly or indirectly pushing for a solution to the dispute [in which Macedonia remains part of the name] then there is the danger that many of the participants in the demonstration will opt to take refuge among the right-wing extremists. ... The government must not trivialise or politically reject the concerns of these people. Its job is to create the conditions for a consensus. If the government managed to persuade the Greeks that it would tear up the austerity terms why can't it bring about a solution to this name dispute?”