Two rival protests have erupted in the Greek capital over the name of neighboring Macedonia, with anarchist counter-protesters clashing with riot police.
Around a million of people from all around Greece have gathered on Athens’s central Syntagma Square to protest against a possible compromise between the country’s government and neighboring Macedonia over the latter’s name.
People, who arrived in Athens by chartered buses and ferries, chanted slogans like “Hands off Macedonia!” and “Macedonia belongs to Greece!” and waved flags with the Star of Vergina, the emblem of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia.
At the same time, another rally of around 700 left-wing and anarchist protesters gathered for a counter-demonstration, calling for the unity of the Balkans.
The riot police had to use stun grenades and tear-gas to disperse the anarchist protesters after the latter began to throw Molotov cocktails at the police.
The dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter’s name emerged after Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece, which has its own province of Macedonia, argues that its northern neighbor can have territorial claims on the region, once the home of the most famous ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great.
The country, which is recognized as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is simply referred to as Macedonia in the international community, while the Greeks call it by the name of its capital Skopje.
The issue prevents Macedonia from joining NATO, to which Greece belongs. The governments of the two countries have been searching for a solution under the mediation of UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz.
As far as possible solutions are concerned, the country may receive a modifier such as “new” or “north,” but such a proposal has provoked protests in both countries.