Zaev Bows to Pressure from Athens to Re-name Airport and Highway, Refuses to Mention His Own Country’s Name

At a joint press conference in Davos, Switzerland with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced that the current Macedonian government plans to rename both an airport and a highway that are currently named after the legendary Macedonian of antiquity Alexander the Great.

Tsipras offered platitudes about Greece being “a force of cooperation,” reiterated accusations about the Republic of Macedonia’s alleged irredentism, and demanded that Macedonia use a different name, to be used “erga omnes.” Tspiras also suggested that if Greece received the concessions it wanted, it might stop obstructing Macedonia’s accession to the EU and NATO, despite the fact that the International Court of Justice ruled in 2011 that such obstruction by Greece is illegal according to international law.

For his part, Zaev expressed great “satisfaction” at the opportunity to negotiate the country’s name with Tsipras in Davos. While announcing the re-naming of the airport and highway, at no time did Zaev ever say his own country’s name in the news conference.

“This is just another example of Macedonia making humiliating, unnecessary concessions and getting absolutely nothing in return,” said UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov. He added: “137 nations have already recognized Macedonia by its rightful name, which is about two-thirds of the United Nations General Assembly. It is high time for Greece, UN, EU, and NATO to formally convey full diplomatic recognition to Macedonia under the “Republic of Macedonia.”

Nikolov added: “Rather than pretending to play a good neighbor while at the same time trying to force Macedonia to give up its name and identity, Greece should properly address the human rights concerns of indigenous ethnic Macedonians within its own borders. Ever since Greece’s annexation of part of geographical Macedonia in 1913, Athens has denied this community’s very existence on lands, which they have inhabited for centuries.”

UMD Vice President and Advisory Council Chair Aleksandar Mitreski said: “Prime Minister Zaev should be mindful and very careful of the ramifications on the global Macedonian cause by such actions. We salute his effort to establish good neighboring relations with Macedonia’s neighbors, but the road to NATO and especially EU membership is long and should exclude topics of Macedonia’s name, identity, and language. Zaev is already making concessions before the actual membership negotiations even begin yet the Greeks keep asking for more and more – it is quite gullible in our opinion. Is Macedonia going to make concessions per each 35 EU chapters?”

UMD rejects all attempts to change or impose any other name upon Macedonia and the Macedonian people, and calls upon the Macedonian government to immediately cease the ongoing UN talks, via UN-appointed negotiator Matthew Nimetz.

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History of the Conflict

Since Greece’s annexation of historical Macedonian territories for the first time in history in 1913, Macedonians have been the target of Greek hostility and aggression. In the war years, committed mass deportations, organized prison camps, and used various forms of state terrorism against the Macedonians. And to this day, Athens still denies official recognition of the Macedonian ethnicity and identity, maintaining a policy of cultural genocide against the ethnic Macedonian community in the region.

In 1988, sensing the Republic of Macedonia’s imminent independence from Belgrade, Greece renamed two northern provinces with the word “Macedonia” for the first time, seeking to subvert the meaning of the word. In 1991, independence was achieved peacefully, but Greece immediately engaged in illegal trade embargos and propaganda campaigns against the Republic of Macedonia, and has since used its veto as an obstacle to Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership accession talks. While aimed at the Republic of Macedonia, these measures also maintain the pressure on Greece’s own domestic ethnic Macedonian community.