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Macedonia: A 2018 name change odyssey

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12.06.2018

Balkan peoples love to argue among themselves. Whether it's squabbles about the past or fights in the present, there is plenty that puts neighbours at odds with one another.

One thing is beyond dispute however: the word "compromise" has a negative ring to it in nearly all languages of Southeast Europe. Politicians in Scandinavia or Germany might take pride in their ability to forge consensus and bridge opposing views. But their colleagues in the Balkans seem to thrive in confrontation, even when they wheel and deal with their adversaries behind the scenes.

The case is point is the so-called Macedonia name dispute. Ever since the former Yugoslav republic by that name gained independence in 1991, the dispute with neighbouring Greece became a centerpiece of the region's politics.

More than a quarter of a century has passed without Athens and Skopje settling their differences. And the outside world, for the most part, remains baffled by the dispute preventing the Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM if you wish, from joining NATO and starting membership talks with the European Union.

Greece objects that the "Republic of Macedonia" implies a claim to the whole geographic region of Macedonia, of which more than half is part of Greek territory. Furthermore, the majority of Greeks have been alarmed by the appropriation by Slav Macedonian nationalists of Ancient Macedonian heritage. For them, Alexander the Great is part and parcel of Hellenic identity.

Resentment only grew when the centre-right VMRO-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity embarked on a campaign of "antiquisation" upon seizing power in Skopje in 2006. Under its populist Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the capital's downtown area was revamped into what looks like a neoclassical-themed amusement........

© Al Jazeera