Up to 100,000 Greeks converged on Athens on Sunday to demonstrate against a name-change deal with the Republic of Macedonia, days before a vote in parliament on the accord..
Athens has long contended that its neighbour’s name implies territorial ambitions against its own northern province of Macedonia.
Under the accord, known as the Prespes agreement and reached with Skopje last June, the Balkan republic will be renamed North Macedonia in order to resolve a row that began with the dissolution of Yugoslavia almost 30 years ago.
However, many Greeks are still unhappy that the mostly Slavic state will still have Macedonia in its name.
Thousands of protesters who had travelled to Athens by bus, plane and ferry packed into Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building yesterday, chanting “Macedonia is Greek”.
Police fired rounds of teargas into the crowd and demonstrators, some draped in giant Greek flags, could be seen vomiting and running for cover. Greece’s leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, blamed the clashes on “extremist elements” of the ultra-right Golden Dawn party out in force under the motto “resistance to treachery”.
“Macedonia is one and it is Greek,” said Andreas Androutsos, a young engineer, deploying a refrain echoed by many attending the demonstration. “What the government is doing is fascistic. It is trying to pass an agreement that so many of us are against. Macedonia belongs to the Greek people, it doesn’t belong to any political party.”
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