In an interview with CNN, the Prime Minister of FYROM, Nikola Gruevski claimed that the Greek government is deliberately avoiding talks over the name dispute. Gruevski said that he had tried to contact the Greek Prime minister but that he was rejected.
Gruevski has also accused Greece of trying to block FYROM’s European Union membership. He added, “International law is on our side and I do believe that if Greece decides to respect this, we can start the negotiations with the EU and join NATO immediately.”
Responding to Gruevski’s claims, Konstantinos Koutras, spokesman for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that Greece is not avoiding the issue and that many of Antonis Samaras‘ predecessors had met with the Prime Minister of FYROM. He highlighted that “A whole generation in FYROM is being poisoned with bitter feelings towards Greece, which is branded as the culprit for all of the evils their country is faced with.” Furthermore, Koutras stated on CNN that, “If Skopje had shown an equal degree of commitment, the name issue would have been settled.”
The dispute between Greece and FYROM over the name Macedonia began in 1991, when FYROM gained independence from Yugoslavia. The core of the disagreement is the use of the name Macedonia (part of northern Greece) as well as other symbols of Greek culture by FYROM. The most significant of these symbols is Alexander the Great, the Greek king of Macedon who founded one of the most important empires of the ancient world.
In 2011 the government of FYROM unveiled a major statue of Alexander the Great in the central square of the nation’s capital, Skopje, causing anger in Greece.